Housing building policy is weighed heavily in favour of developers at the expense of communities

Arun District Council has decided that a house-building target of 20,000 new houses ‘can be delivered’ over the period of their local plan, 2011 to 2031’ (Arun Local Plan Submission Version (ALPSV) Modifications, March 2017’: ‘Housing Supply).

Not withstanding that this is a huge number of houses, the ALPSV seems to assume that once land has been allocated for development and permissions given, developers will build in numbers sufficient to meet the resulting substantial annual-build requirements specified in the plan in all years to 2031.

In reality, however, house-builders will not deliver more houses than can be sold at an acceptable-to-them profit and they will adjust build rates either up or down in response to market demand as they did during the recession when build rates were much reduced. The recently published House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee report, ‘Capacity in the homebuilding industry’, 29Apr17, found that to recover their investment, developers will be more likely ‘to ‘build more slowly to maintain prices’.

And, as is acknowledged in the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts’ report: ‘Housing: State of the Nation’, 24 Apr 17, housing delivery rates are dependent on ‘the health of the wider economy’. Arun’s District Plan does not acknowledge that housing delivery rates are dependent on the health of the wider economy.

Instead it seems to assume that economic growth will be sufficient to sustain required build rates in all years to 2031 when in reality there is considerable economic uncertainty.

And, of course, councils cannot compel developers to meet five year requirements. All of this matters greatly, because under the present planning regime the council will be blamed and held to account by the Government should house-builders fail to build new houses annually in numbers sufficient to meet the excessive and notional housebuilding target set in the emerging local plan. In which eventuality, the council’s role as a planning authority will be undermined and much diminished - and the aspirations of communities expressed in Neighbourhood Plans are likely to be trampled on and dismissed at Appeal. A general election is imminent. Do parliamentary candidates consider the planning system to be inequitable and if elected, would they seek to restore the balance of decision making on planning matters, which is heavily weighted in favour of developers, to communities? Yours faithfully,

Dr R F Smith

Trustee CPRE Sussex

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