Memoranda submitted by South East England
Development Agency, South East England Regional Assembly and South
West Regional Assembly
Examination of Witnesses(Questions 173-179)
TUESDAY 22 OCTOBER 2002
173. Can I welcome the second set of witnesses
this morning. Can I ask you to identify yourselves for the record.
(Mr Bevan) I am Paul Bevan, Chief Executive of South
East England Regional Assembly.
(Mr Dunnett) I am Anthony Dunnett, the Chief Executive
of South East England Development Agency.
(Councillor Clarke) I am Chris Clarke, Vice Chairman,
South West Regional Assembly.
(Ms Houlden) I am Bryony Houlden, Chief
Executive, South West Regional Assembly.
174. Does anyone want to say anything by way
of introduction or are you happy for us to go straight to questions?
(Councillor Clarke) Firstly, I would like to say how
glad we are to be seen because we feel that our region has been
overlooked in all the talk about abandoned houses in the North
and the pressure of prices in the South East. What our region
is facing is a growing population anyway. There is very high inward
migration which comes from several sources: people are relocating
for job reasons and for skills needs; they are relocating for
social reasons; they are moving into our region to retire; they
are buying second homes there. In addition, as a rural region,
most housing developments are contentious because of the rural
nature of the region and that means we are stuck between very
high demand and the problem of trying to keep apace and we have
low availability of brownfield land. Some estimates say that,
in our region, house prices have increased 40 per cent in the
last year and some estimates put the average price now at £140,000.
We have a map which we can leave or offer which shows the intensity
of some of that in Cornwall and Devon. Salisbury, for example,
has a very high price level. What we are finding is that, in some
places, the gap between incomewe are a low wage regionand
what people need to buy a house is £20,000. It is unbridgeable
for them. We missed out on our Challenge funding, we missed out
on Housing Corporation funding. We need attention for our region
to help us deal with these pressures.
(Mr Bevan) I have a simple point on numbers that I
really want to open with. In the South-East region, our housing
target regional planning guidance is 28,000 dwellings per annum
and we are delivering at the moment 22,000, a shortfall of 6,000.
Of that in terms of affordable housing, our target is 12,000.
The delivery at the moment is at the maximum 6,000, depending
on how you count, and net zero because we are losing 6,000 a year
to right to buy.
175. In the letter of submissions that you have
sent to the Committee, you said that more money being made available
is welcome. I would imagine that reference is to the new plans
in the comprehensive spending review. Then you say that an increase
in land and house prices makes it difficult to provide social
housing. How much do you think the shortfall is?
(Councillor Clarke) In the South West?
(Councillor Clarke) We have a gap of around 10,000
of which 6,000 needs to be affordable housing, that is per annum.
177. Does that apply right across the region?
(Councillor Clarke): In the South West, yes.
178. Is the money required to tackle the regional
needs far beyond the means of any Government?
(Councillor Clarke) Certainly I can give you a personal
opinion: I believe that only a proportion of the pressure can
be met by the supply side because the gap is so large. I touched,
for example, on second homes. We have some parishes where 50 per
cent of homes are second homes and therefore you have people cashing
in their chips from very high pay areas and pushing it way beyond
reach. So, I am not sure that the answer to your question is that
it is beyond Government means, but I personally believe that it
is beyond just planning issues and market forces issues. You also
need other fiscal devices. We have places where, even on shared
equity, someone on an average income does not have a hope of getting
somewhere to live and that is why we have these growing commuter
179. What action do you think the Government
(Councillor Clarke) Certainly in our case, the Government
should first of all recognise the South West as being a place
of pressure because that recognition is not presently there. It
would be reasonable for us to have a share of the Challenge Fund
and a better share of the Corporation Fund. The other thing though
is looking at new and different models. I was interested to hear
the view expressed that teachers have aspirations to own their
own house and bus drivers do not. I am not sure that is true.
There is a fundamental right here that many people share: that
is people's aspiration to own a home. However, other fiscal devices
will be needed and, as you know, the pressure to do that is growing
now because of the way pensions are collapsing and people want