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Reckless, never-mind-the-consequences approach to planning must stop

16th February 2022

Letter published by the West Sussex Gazette, 16 February 2022


The present reckless press-on regardless-never-mind-the-consequences approach to planning must stop

In compliance with Government diktat council’s will be required to recalculate their housing needs during the latter part of March.

The resulting new housing-need numbers are to come into play 1 April.

Except where an alternative approach is warranted, councils are required to use the formula-based Standard Method to determine their ‘minimum housing need figure’, as stipulated by the Government in their Guidance: Housing and Economic Needs Assessment’, guides councils in how to assess their housing needs’.

The formula uses 2014-based National Household Growth Projections, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), to which is added an ‘affordability’ factor using ‘median workplace-based affordability ratios’. The latter are due to be published for each local authority in March.

Present housing targets, which are already huge and unprecedented, will doubtless be increased.

This in turn will increase the number of houses that are beyond the capacity of Adur, Brighton & Hove, Chichester, Crawley and Worthing to accommodate, which will increase substantially the number of houses shifted to Arun, Horsham and Mid Sussex to accommodate under the pernicious ‘Duty to Cooperate’.

In addition, the Guidance states that ‘there will be circumstances where it is appropriate to consider whether actual housing need is higher than the standard method indicates’, a stipulation that developers will exploit to push numbers ever upwards.

And when developers choose to build fewer houses than is required by Standard Method targets, councils and communities will have development imposed on them by developers, as is happening now across Sussex.

Note, that ‘Affordability’ in the context of the Standard Method is a misnomer because the application of the Method’s affordability factor has not increased the delivery of truly affordable homes.

Note also that the Standard Method takes no account of the resulting environmental consequences, including impact on the supply of potable water and increased outflows of raw and partially treated sewage into rivers, and of course making worse the consequences of climate change.

The present reckless press-on regardless-never-mind-the-consequences approach to planning must stop. What is needed urgently now and for the future is planning that is empirical and pragmatic, and community led.

Meanwhile the Government’s ‘Guidance: Housing and Economic Needs Assessment’ allows councils to determine their housing requirements, when warranted by exceptional circumstances, and circumstances now are exceptional, without using the Standard Method formula. MPs should support them.

Yours faithfully,

Dr R F Smith

Trustee CPRE Sussex