Living in the shire

A piece from the Dorset Echo online

The government dictate that the council must have a development plan. The council can only use government approved algorithms and methodology to assess the numbers of houses. That methodology is NOT based purely on need but includes provision for growth. You’ll be told that x number of jobs are ‘expected’ to be created therefore we ‘need’ housing for employees. The unelected but very influential LEP will announce an economic growth prediction and their assessment won’t form part of the councils background papers!

‘Need’ plays little part in the assessment. In fact as the government refuses to accept that ‘affordable’ is not linked to local average earnings, and is therefore NOT affordable, need plays no part!

You will be consulted on the councils decision about where to put the developments but NOT whether those developments are even required. The numbers are not negotiable.

You will be presented with the following:

The plan seeks to

  • build much needed homes for local people
  • put the right homes in the right places
  • provide affordable housing
  • stop ‘unplanned’ development
  • Provide much needed infrastructure

The literature will also tell you that without a plan, there will be uncontrolled development. However, as the council is constrained by the rules of the NPPF and the government’s presumption in favour of development, the plan cannot dictate the full extent of development during the plan period. It is very difficult for the council to refuse planning applications so whilst the plan may be able to block large unplanned sites coming forward, a plan won’t stop or control development to the extent they claim.

A quick check will reveal that developers are very good at going to appeal to remove their liability to provide any infrastructure and the alleged affordable provision. Just because the council say the plan will provide, remember that the council do NOT build houses so they have absolutely no control over what appeals go forward and the outcomes. The developer is NOT required to provide or improve off site infrastructure so beware of the council using language like ‘may’, ‘could’ and ‘need’.

There’ll be a reference to SANGS as being a bonus of development. However, if you’re currently surrounded by green fields you gain nothing because a SANG is the provision of ….. a green field, urbanised for public use to mitigate against the concreting of the other 2 fields around you!

The numbers also allow for second house ownership and there’ll be no requirement for developments to be occupied by full time residents. Again one has to question the use of ‘need’.

This is a numbers game. It’s no good expecting your town or parish council to be the only ones submitting comments. It is vital that every single person takes part. Irrespective of how many people the town or parish represents, the council only recognises their submission as ONE. If the plan directs an extraordinary high number of dwellings in your direction you’ll need to act as a community.

Finally, before anyone cries NIMBY in my direction, think. Nobody is saying there shouldn’t be any development, but previous experience shows that ‘need’ is the last thing that gets addressed, that affordable is mostly unaffordable or doesn’t get built at all, that development needs to be on the basis of need not greed. Unless the council applies a full residency policy, there are likely to be many second houses and holiday lets who don’t contribute to your community, local shop, pub, school, church, social clubs, community welfare projects, volunteers or the parish or town council. Holiday lets in particular are only cash cows for the owners who are often based outside of Dorset and the properties are often in use for only a proportion of the year so can’t contribute to sustainable communities.