Written evidence from Cavendish Keymar
2.0 TERMS OF
The Communities and Local Government Committee has
launched an Inquiry into the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies.
Submissions are invited to address:
The implications for regional house-building targets.
The likely effect on this of government's financial
incentives to local planning authorities for housing delivery.
The arrangements that should be put in place to ensure
appropriate cooperation between local planning authorities.
The adequacy of proposals already put forward by
government including a proposed duty to cooperate.
At present, the detail of financial incentives is
sketchy and there seem to be no government proposals requiring
local planning authorities to cooperate. Accordingly, this submission
focuses on the implications for house building and housing delivery.
3.0 HOUSE BUILDING
House buildinghow popular?
I (Edward Keymer)
attended a recent residents' meeting to consider the possibility
of strategic housing growth on the edge of Stevenage. Not surprisingly,
the meeting was convened in a rural village hall and was attended
by 47 members of the public; 44 of them were over 50 years old
and at least 25% of those present were no longer economically
active. Only three young people attended; one couple left after
20 minutes, the remaining person (in his 20s) stayed because his
parents were present.
The purpose of this observation is to stress that
decisions on housing provision are rarely taken by those who are
likely to be occupying them and, too often, housing growth is
seen not as a facility for housing the next generation, but as
a threat likely to be populated by aliens!
This fear of the unknown and obsession with the status
quo is reason enough why the provision of housing within Great
Britain should be decided at a level above and beyond local District
Councils. Indeed, until the introduction of the 2004 Planning
and Compulsory Purchase Act, housing numbers were decided by County
Councils, who were able to take a more objective view.
It is my professional opinion, after more than 25
years of promoting strategic private sector housing development,
that if housing numbers are left to local planning authorities,
the South-East will face a critical shortage of housing. This,
in turn, will de-house the workforce, causing employers to desert
London and the South-East to locations where labour can be hired
at affordable rates.
This is not a convenient relocation of jobs from
Southampton to Solihull, but quite possibly from Southampton to
Labour must be provided where it is needed and to
meet this requirement so, too, must housing be made available
at prices people can afford.
House buildinghow much?
The figures put forward in the approved East of England
Plan and in the proposed roll forward to 2031 are not based on
fiction, but on hard fact. Attached at Appendix I with this submission
are extracts from the Strategic Housing Market Assessment Report
(SHMAR) for the London Commuter Belt (East) 2008. This document
is attached for three reasons:
1. It sets out the science behind the requirement
for house building.
2. It demonstrates on page four that, in terms
of cost, the main areas of cheaper housing within the North London
commuter belt are Harlow and Stevenageboth new towns. This
is shown on the plan by dark green colouring suggesting that house
prices are 75% to 90% of the average, whereas areas marked red
are as much as 200% of the average price. The thrust of this submission
relates to Stevenage which is where my expertise is focused and
where there is a proven need for substantial strategic housing
releases over the next 10 years.
3. Figure 5 of the SHMAR demonstrates that, in
Stevenage, only 10% to 15% of people commute to London. As such,
it is a more sustainable location to expand rather than, for instance,
Harlow which, although it offers good value in terms of house
prices, lacks the substantial employment base of Stevenage, benefitting
as it does from British Aerospace, Glaxo and a host of other major
The case of Stevenage could apply equally in terms
of strategic housing growth to any number of substantial settlements
around Londonbe it Basingstoke, Reading or Guildfordespecially
when the main settlements lack sufficient space within their administrative
boundaries to determine their own rate of expansion.
4.0 THE CASE
I repeat that the reason for making the growth case
for Stevenage should be viewed in the generality, in that matters
which apply to Stevenage can apply equally to other towns. Stevenage
has few claims to fame, apart from E M Forster and Lewis Hamilton,
but its growth requirements are mirrored throughout the South
However, Stevenage's special qualities are:
Cheap house pricesHertford is up to 70%
more (see Appendix II).
Strong employment base.
Substantial social and physical infrastructure, in
particular schools and a major hospital.
Location on north-south routes of communication.
Proximity of airports at Luton and Stansted.
5.0 HISTORY OF
Over the last 25 to 30 years, Stevenage has grown
steadily at about 800 houses per annumsee Appendix III.
In recent years, growth proposed for this key strategic centre,
under the East of England Plan, or Regional Spatial Strategy,
was to be located west (now approved) and north of Stevenagewithin
the North Herts administrative area. This was and is because Stevenage
has virtually no land for growth within its administrative boundaries.
These new neighbourhoods were being planned jointly
by Stevenage and North Herts Planning Authorities, under the Stevenage
North-herts Action Plan (SNAP).
||Number of houses|
|1990s||Chells Manor||3,000 (East Herts)
|2000 onwards||Great Ashby
||2,500 (North Herts)|
This sustained private sector growth followed on from Stevenage's
previous designation as a "new town". The increased
amount of private sector housing has increased importance of Stevenage
as a key employment regional centre over the past decade(s). It
has also changed the economic profile of the population and encouraged
higher calibre employers.
6.0 FUTURE GROWTH
Growth envisaged by Stevenage over the next 20 years and, indeed,
embraced under the auspices of the Regional Plan and its review
was predicted according to the plan attached as Appendix IV.
|NES 3/SNAP 5||2011 ?||1,000 (North Herts)
|North Stevenage||2013 ?
||1,000 (North Herts)|
|NES 4||2013 ?||5,000 (North Herts)
|NES 5 new RSS not SNAP||Post 2020
||5,000 (East Herts)|
In contrast to piecemeal housing estates, the SNAP proposalssee
Appendix Venvisaged the provision of complete communities,
provided with schools, shops, employment and open space, all holistically
planned within each neighbourhood. Prior to the abolition of Regional
Plans, development consortia were in place, ready to submit planning
applications on these growth areas in order to deliver new complete
communities from 2013.
7.0 THE EFFECT
As stated previously, prior to the abolition of the East of England
Plan, Stevenage Borough Council and North Herts District Council
were working jointly on SNAP in order to plan and deliver the
longer term growth of Stevenage, related to its role as a key
Following the Secretary of State's letter of 27 May 2010, North
Herts District Council resolved on 15 June to place all work on
SNAP into abeyance.
The Council stated:
"Whilst the North Hertfordshire Cabinet resolution refers
to all work on SNAP ceasing until there is further clarity, it
is extremely unlikely that SNAP will be resumed in its current
form once that clarity is found."
The Council went on to state:
"It is highly unlikely that (NHDC) will reach the same
conclusions reached by the East of England Plan."
We are now informed that North Herts plan to go back to Stage
I to re-consult on the principles of growth in the district.
In the meantime:
1. Further strategic housing provision at Stevenage has stopped
which will inevitably lead to housing shortages and rising prices.
2. The provision of a Northern Relief Road (NRR) is scrapped,
so it will no longer offer relief to existing housing areas north
of the town.
3. The provision of new primary schools and financial contributions
to secondary schools will now cease.
4. Planned improvements to the Stevenage foul drainage system,
already much needed, have stopped.
5. The much-needed population growth of Stevenage will not
now happen, leading to no increased "spend" in the dilapidated
town centre, so much in need of regeneration.
6. Stevenage will offer no safety-valve for housing demand
in the locality, which will exert pressure for less sustainable
forms of development
Finally, the Terms of Reference include a brief to comment on
the arrangements in place for the effective cooperation between
local planning authorities and the adequacy of government proposals
regarding a duty of local planning authorities to cooperate.
These two questions are identical but attract the same answer.
There do not appear to be any arrangements in place that
require local planning authorities to cooperate. Indeed, very
little seems to have been put in place by Government, only a spree
of abolition, which has horrified the House Builders Federation
and prompted Carla Homes, among others, to seek a judicial review
of the government's actions.
Other sources have calculated that in the order of 26% of the
national economy is dependent upon a buoyant housing market; this
high figure stems not only from direct employment in the construction
industry but in DIY purchases, purchases of carpets and soft furnishings,
removals, conveyancing but, most importantly, the whole supply
chain of the building industry.
In spite of this vital importance to the national economy, Planning
Resource reports that housing supply decreased for the
second month in a row, falling by 2.2% in August according to
latest market research by Hometrack.
In addition, Government has announced the cancellation of Housing
and Planning Delivery Grants (HPDG) which will further curtail
planning authorities' ability to kick-start the private housing
We are told that the purpose of the new legislation (although
there has been no legislation) was to promote more rapid housing
delivery because the Local Development Framework introduced under
the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 was not working.
On the contrary, it was working and "if it ain't broke,
it does not need fixing".
Yet now the joint SNAP plan at Stevenage has been scrapped, and
over 7,000 much-needed houses will not be built in this vibrant