Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence


Memorandum by Ringwood Town Council (AH 49)

  1.  Ringwood is a small market town on the Hampshire/Dorset border between two major sub regional conurbations linked by the A31(T) and is therefore a location with excellent transport connections. House prices are very high due to demand for such a strategic location. However, land identified for housebuilding is modest and not scheduled for release before 2011.

  Demand is being met in a piecemeal and inadequate manner by small scale infill development. There are no brown field sites for housing and one site, an ex foundry with extensive contaminated land designated for employment use despite the poor surrounding traffic network. It would make a far more sensible mixed use development as it is within walking distance of the town centre.

  The town can only expand modestly in two areas due to it being framed on three sides by the Avon and associated SSSI, extensive flooded gravel pits to the north and by the NF National Park on the east. Yet these two areas are identified as part of the Green Belt despite the Inspector who reported on the New Forest National Park saying that they were of no landscape value and of minimal agricultural value and used mainly for grazing to ensure grant payments.

2.  HOUSE PRICES AND HOUSING SUPPLY

    —  UK housing land supply has been disconnected from market pricing since 1947.

    —  Planning goals control supply and are not aligned with growth in demand.

    —  The lag in the planning system results in missed economic opportunities.

    —  Ringwood is an example of conservation thinking that has restricted growth in a mixed economy market town with excellent transport links.

3.  THE PLANNING SYSTEM AND DEMAND FOR HOUSING

    —  Linear planned/predicted increases vs exponential growth demand—inflates equilibrium price.

    —  Current situation impacted by globalisation and technological change—future will be "faster" than past.

    —  Historic tax distortion of market led to secondary use as investment vehicle—difficult to unwind.

    —  Tight land supply led to regional "bubble economy" in SE—in areas where agricultural land is falling out of use.

    —  Leads to high land price and (paradoxically) poor building quality (reduced risk to capital).

    —  Central response has been to attempt to mandate very high-density housing—but people want "an Englishman's castle"—dignified high-density housing is costly (eg Bath terraces). However, high densities preclude ability to change/alter housing easily to life style changes.

    —  Consider: more flexible land use models—possibly variable use zones with local competence to vary.

    —  Low volume/high price market led to historic high transaction costs, long transaction times.

    —  Leads to depressed labour mobility—can be seen in our "dormitory town".

    —  Consider: reform of housing buy/sell system to lower transaction costs.

  4.  Tackling the regional disparities in supply and demand

    —  Do not attempt to tackle using "social engineering".

    —  Use price mechanism—helping in pursuit of regional strategic goals, without micro-managing local factors.

    —  Historical lack of flexibility has hindered adaptation to changing needs and ability to pay

COMMENT

  Currently, the Government is championing the concept of choice in Health, Education and local community involvement, yet it seems remarkably reluctant to give us choice on a fundamental of a good life—a home and the second single largest expense in most people's lives (after pension provision).





 
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