Council challenges government housing targets

In News by Bembridge PC

New government housing targets —  which would see an extra 1,045 homes expected to be built each year on the Island — are being challenged by the Isle of Wight Council.

Working in partnership with the Island’s MP, Bob Seely, the authority is taking a stand against a new government consultation proposal that would see a significant increase in the number of houses the council would be required to plan for.

Councillor Barry Abraham, Cabinet member for planning and housing, said: “While the council recognises the need for new housing on the Island, we feel strongly that we cannot accept what the government is proposing.

“We listened following the draft Island Planning Strategy and have worked hard to build an evidence base that supports our position on this issue.

“Yes, we need to plan for housing that meets our needs, but we must make sure that it is realistic and deliverable. It shouldn’t be something government impose on the Island to achieve a national target figure.

‘In preparing our comprehensive submission to government we sought the views of all members of the council and took into account the views of town and parish councils.”

The eight-week government consultation, ‘Changes to the Current Planning System’, came to a close last Thursday (1 October).

Those changes include altering the way housing figures are calculated — replacing the current ‘standard method’ with a revised calculation seemingly designed to achieve a national target of 300,000 new homes per year.

On the Island, the changes would see an expectation from government that an extra 400 homes would be built each year on top of the 640 the current ‘standard method’ requires.

The council will also be preparing a response to the government’s consultation on the ‘Planning For The Future’ white paper, which closes on 29 October.

Ministers say it aims to ‘streamline process, cut red tape and harness technology to deliver homes faster’.

The proposals include:

  • introducing zonal development in towns and cities by earmarking land as ‘Growth’, ‘Renewal’ or ‘Protected’ – with outline planning permission becoming automatic for developments in ‘Growth’;
  • introducing a ‘pattern book’ approach involving national and local ‘design codes’ to speed up development;
  • scrapping Section 106 agreements under which developers provide a proportion of affordable housing or pay towards the cost of vital infrastructure such as schools, and replacing these with an ‘Infrastructure Levy’ that would be paid once a development was completed (not in advance, as now); and
  • making the housing numbers issued by government mandatory and binding, with land constraints being part of how the number is calculated.

Meanwhile, Cabinet members last night (Thursday) adopted a new housing strategy for the Island, developed in partnership with the public and private sector housing sectors over the past 12 months.

The strategy — which should not be confused with the Island Planning Strategy — is focused on building more homes that Island families can afford.

Councillor Abraham said: “Around a quarter of all Island families struggle to find a suitable home of the right size in the right location, mainly one and two bed family homes.

“Our evidence is that many Island families need rented homes at 60 per cent of current rent and house prices to prevent evictions for rent arrears and other negative impacts related to health and wellbeing.

“The strategy also highlights the very low levels of home-ownership for the under 45s — and the very high levels of home-ownership for the over 65s — and the need to do more to help local working families on the Island and to bridge this gap.”