SUBMISSION FROM NORTH DEVON CONSERVATIVE ASSOCIATION
While we do need to change our planning system, I believe that the new standard method we are introducing places too much emphasis on targets, rather than deliverability. In North Devon, if all the houses that had been given permission were built in a timely manner, then our shortage of housing would be negligible.
I worry that the new Standard Method does not take ‘local’ need but the demand for housing to provide for those moving into the area. Be that here in North Devon or anywhere. There are geographical supply constraints to consider here and elsewhere, the environmental impacts on many of our many protected areas. There is already a pressure on authorities to prove a five-year land supply, increasing the numbers does not always deliver more housing. We need to deliver on what we have already said we would build, before we bring in a new Standard Method that increases targets.
The new Standard Method increases the baseline housing need in areas, like North Devon, with worsening affordability. I do understand why but North Devon has done well in the last few years, and in our joint plan with Torridge we have seen recent increases in housebuilding. This has however had little, if any effect of house prices or affordability here. Regardless, there is little evidence that simply increasing the housebuilding target, will necessary increase the actual supply. We need more innovative ways, or even to expand what we are already doing, to help people buy and rent in their local area. The people of North Devon don’t want more houses, but they do want homes they can afford to rent and then maybe someday buy. There are many schemes and ideas in effect now and being discussed that will hopefully help with this, but an increase in the target does not address this directly. If it did then maybe objections to this new Standard Method would fall away.
We need to incentivise developers to build on what they have, before handing them planning permissions on yet more of our green pastures. I am fully behind encouraging building on brownfield sites, but what if you do not really have any more to build on? We do not have any Green Belt in Devon, but we have plenty of ‘green’ that we do not wish to disappear. We must hold onto our ‘green wedges’ that differentiate between one village and another. Increasing the targets again puts further pressure on that green space which is not always designated for protection.
I worry that this top down method of arriving at house building targets works against other Government proposals to devolve more powers to the regions and councils. I do want more and better housing in North Devon, but in the right place. I cannot see how an arbitrary calculation achieves this. The new Standard Method means we will end up building more houses in the South and less in the North. In the South West we need infrastructure so that we can live and work here while being connected to the rest of the country and the world. In many ways we are much like the North, we do need more houses and that is what we are trying to do. More importantly though, those houses and the people in them need to be connected, working locally or remotely and maintaining, rather than changing our growing communities.
Chris Guyver, Chair NDCA 01.1020