Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies: a planning vacuum? - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

Written evidence from Bryan Jezeph Consultancy (ARSS 154)


1.1  I regard targets as absolutely fundamental to the achievement of housing provision. The opposition to housing is so ingrained in the psyche of the local residents that it is essential that they are confronted with the reality of the position. It is also evident that most Councils are dominated by Councillors who are retired or close to retirement. Councillors younger than 50 years of age are relatively rare. As a result, the young and poor are unrepresented.

1.2  Opposition to all forms of development enable opponents to gather huge support while those in need are either unable or unwilling to face the hostility of Nimbys. Opposition to change is universal and logic and common sense is lost under the pressure from "nimbys". The government's policies appear to be framed to re-inforce nimbyism rather than the achievement of social justice and cohesion.

1.3  The level of house building prior to the recession was at an all time low since the end of the First World War. The recession has exacerbated the position. However, the government's policy of localism appears to accelerate the decline in house building. On the other hand, the promotion of house building, in particular, is a sector that could provide wide ranging benefits.


1.4  The predicament for those in need of affordable housing is set out succinctly in the Core Strategy for East Hampshire District which was published in March of this year. It states in paragraph 2.8 that :-

We already have a lack of affordable homes in the area. The Council carried out Strategic Housing Market Assessments in 2006 and 2008 which reveal that 670 additional affordable homes need to be built each year to meet housing needs and address the backlog over five years. To put this into perspective, it means that even if all the homes required for the district by the South East Plan were built as affordable homes, it still would not be enough to meet the need.


1.5  East Hampshire is not unusual, on the contrary, it is typical and the same desperate situation is manifest across the country. The magnitude of the requirement for affordable housing is well known. The quote from a recent meeting of the West of Waterlooville Forum (Winchester and Havant Districts) sets out the desperate nature of this issue.

In 2006 a Housing Market Assessment was commissioned to assess the need for affordable housing in the area. This indicated a backlog of need of around 850 households. The study took no account of newly arising need so given the limited development in the area since it is probable that unmet need has increased, and that it will increase further over the lifetime of the development. It is also worth noting that there are over 10,000 households on the Hampshire Home Choice register, and that as a consequence there were 79 bids for each one bedroom affordable unit on the Taylor Wimpey scheme, and 149 bids for each three bedroom property. The market popularity of the Taylor Wimpey scheme also demonstrates that it is meeting a need for high quality new market housing in the area.

Paragraph 1.6; West of Waterlooville Forum: Progress Report dated 7 July 2010

1.6  The area covered by Hampshire Home Choice includes the Districts of East Hampshire, Havant and Winchester.

1.7  Furthermore, it is widely recognised that there is also a serious shortage of funds for new affordable housing projects. House builders are unable to find Housing Associations capable of funding the affordable element of their schemes which typically comprise 30-40% of the units.


1.8  Demographers have consistently claimed that the housing requirement as set out in the South East Plan is too low. The government's decision to abolish the Regional Spatial Strategies which is the only body that provides the technical support for the figures and to hand the decision making back to the Counties and Districts where these skills are not available. It is a case of shooting the messenger!

1.9  It cannot be so difficult to calculate the need for housing and distribute it on a sustainable basis but this seems to be lost when faced with public opposition and the fact that there is no counter pressure group to coordinate the case for more housing. For some reason, the difficulties of house purchase for young people does not manifest itself in coordinated opposition. As a result, the hypocrisy of nimbyism prevails.


1.10  The slowing of house production would be deplorable in any circumstances but it is incomprehensible given the forthcoming financial restraints. Besides the provision of desperately needed homes, house building provides an exceptionally wide range of employment from plumbers to electricians, to the kitchen and furniture providers.

1.11  A wide range of smaller schemes would also provide a consequent spread of job opportunities revitalising the local construction industry. Urban extensions are clearly the preferred locations for new development as they optimise existing capacity and can make good deficiencies. Besides the fact that development on the edge of settlements involves minimal infrastructure expenditure, it would provide immediate employment for local people with a range of skills in a number of places.


1.12  What is the point in proposing new local shopping centres in new settlements and Strategic Development Areas when existing towns and villages are suffering from decline? Many of the local village schools have falling rolls where new housing could utilise existing space or additional classrooms could be provided. Existing facilities could be improved. New housing should be used as a "multiplier" to boost work and jobs. Unbelievably, the exisitng range of facilities including schools is not a consideration in sustainbility matrices.


1.13  Nimbyism is a corrosive and distorting force. It is corrosive because it prevents engagement with communities. It is a distorting force because if development is directed by nimbys, it will prevent the appropriate assessment of sustainability. The District Councillors responsible for the decisions upon the location of new development will be influenced by political considerations first and foremost and will direct development to areas where the least objection is expected.

1.14  It also leads to ridiculous decisions, for example, the one to provide a "Strategic Gap" near Whiteley. This was rejected by the Inspectors at the EiP who recognised that there was not really a gap at all.

8.12  The Meon Valley Gap clearly serves a strategic purpose in separating the major built up areas in South Hampshire, with Southampton to the west and Fareham and Gosport to the east. But it too is very extensive and takes in some six km of coastline where the risk of coalescence is vrtually nil notwithstanding the other coast and countryside policies of the HCSPR (Structure Plan). Winchester City Council suggest that the gap should be extended northwards (five miles) beyond the railway and reach up to Wickham. This is a case of extending a gap to find a settlement when the motorway, let alone the railway is an appropriate physical barrir to curtail development.

1.15  What happened next? Yes, the one sided gap was extended beyond both the railway and the motorway!

1.16  Nimbyism is not confined to individuals or Councillors. I can provide several examples where the local newspapers have provided a biased report. For example, an article from the Portsmouth Evening News which shows a picture of Butser Hill one of the highest points in this part of Hampshire and a popular area for walkers. The view implies that the proposed new developments at Clanfield and Petersfield can be seen from the local beauty spot known as Butser Hill. These developments are three or four miles from Butser Hill and the proposals also are extensions to existing urban areas and, if they are visible at all, it would be against the backcloth of the existing urban area.

1.17  Even the local newspapers do not let the facts get in the way of a story albeit based simply on the anti-development nimbys. There is no atempt to be objective or to recognise that there is a desperate need for new housing.


1.18  Besides the importance of providing homes for those who need them, the development of housing offers the opportunity to stimulate the local economy and contribute towards the provision or improvement of local facilities. Higher levels of provision would also minimise the rise in house values and, thereby, reducing the risks and problems created by such increases.

1.19  The Government's decision to abolish Regional Spatial Strategies and targets appears to be a recipe for chaos. However imperfect the current system, the method ensures that there is some basic guidance on the distribution of housing and targets across the regions. The previous system of Local Plans was abandoned because they took so long to complete and public involvement was minimal. However, the only way to involve the public is to confront them with the reality. Houses must be provided; each settlement must provide some unless there are such constraints that this is unrealistic. There are not many places where all possibilities are exhausted.

1.20  There is acceptance that there is a desperate need for more housing. Few people question the population figures or the need for affordable housing. The release of a wide range of sites ahead of the managed release proposed in Core Strategies would provide a market led approach which would enable developments to proceed in relation to demand.


1.21  There must also be the benefit that house prices can be maintained at more restricted levels that enable more people to acquire housing without prices running out of control. The restricted market favours existing owners to the detriment new purchasers trying to get on the housing ladder. Stable house prices could also limit the level of re-mortgaging that contributed to the boom and bust that fuelled the recession.

1.22  There is a clear need to incentivise local communities. At present, new developments are foist upon them with no benefits. My approach would also ensure that local communities are provided with enhanced facilities in a period of limited public resources.

1.23  Councils should be examining the best way to stimulate their economies by working with landowners and developers to obtain the greatest benefits. The early release of land already identified for development can ensure a market based demand rather than rising prices through shortages.


1.24  Figures from the ONS are stratling. From the 1950's onwards the number of centenarians (people aged 100 years or more) in England and Wales has increased at a faster rate than any other age group. The estimated number of centenarians for England and Wales for the period 1911 to 2008 shows that the number of centenarians has increased 95-fold from only 100 in 1911 to 9,600 in 2008.

1.25  This increase however, has not been constant across the period. Growth was slowest between 1911 and 1946; over this thirty-five year period the number of centenarians increased by less than 100. In comparison, the centenarian population grew by 2,000 over the thirty-five years from 1946 to 1981. Between 1981 and 2008, the number grew from 2,200 to 9,600, an increase of 7,400 centenarians over this final 27 year period.

The major contributor to the rising number of centenarians is increased survival between the age of 80 and 100 due to improved medical treatment, housing and living standards, and nutrition. Since 1911 female centenarians have always outnumbered male centenarians due to the higher life expectancies for women. In 2008 there were approximately seven female centenarians for every male centenarian. In contrast, there were about three women for every centenarian man in 1911. However the ratio of male to female centenarians has fluctuated over time and it has started to fall in recent years due to recent improvements in male mortality. (ONS 2007)

1.26  Future numbers of centenarians will depend on both the numbers of people at younger age groups in the population today and their future survival. Current population projections suggest the number of centenarians in England and Wales will reach almost 64,200 by mid-2033. This is nearly a seven fold increase from the 2008 figure, and an annual average increase of 8 per cent a year.


1.27  In my opinion, there is a clear need for the "carrot and stick" approach. The "carrot" is finance towards local facilities and in this respect is should go right down to the village or suburb. The "stick" is no money from other sources and only monies for support for development.


1.28  I believe that a formula especially on greenfield sites can be readily agreed. The difference in the land value of agricultural land versus land with planning permission is so great that developers could easily afford to pay more towards local facilities and infrastructure. Financial contributions must go primarily to the immediate area of the development and not to the District Council. The possibility of developers providing the affordable housing rather than just providing the land should also be investigated.


1.29  All sites in the five year programme and more should be released at the earliest opportunity where they have been identified as suitable for development. This would facilitate the greatest possible spread of sites. This would ensure that there is a diverse range of dwellings so that people seeking housing can live where they choose rather than to where they are directed because of limted choice. All land releases should include both aspiration on the relevant sustainability codes and also seek to maximise community benefits.

1.30  Without targets, there is no incentive for authorities to achieve the required housing provision. The proposed incentives of Council tax benefits are insufficent to persuade authorities to do more than the minimum. In large Districts such as Winchester new housing proposals can be as far as 17 miles from the City and the financial benefits may not go to the locality.

1.31  Targets should be restored as soon as possible.

September 2010

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