CPRE Kent today applauds Medway Council’s Cabinet for its withering rejection of proposed government policy that would see it face an “unrealistic and totally unacceptable increase in the levels of housing” to be built in the district.
Further, we support the council’s call for Kent and Medway MPs, as well as other local authorities in the county, to join it in expressing to central government the concerns that an increasing number of people and organisations have about the burden of housing development Kent would be expected to take.
It is telling that a Conservative-led council should offer such trenchant criticisms of the DCLG’s own policies.
After yesterday’s Cabinet meeting (Wednesday, October 25), the council released a fierce statement blasting the DCLG’s demands:
“At yesterday’s meeting of Medway Council’s Conservative Cabinet, members strongly rejected proposals from the Department for Communities and Local Government which would see an unrealistic and totally unacceptable increase in the levels of housing required within Medway,” it said.
“Independent consultants have previously determined Medway’s Objectively Assessed Need (OAN) for housing as 1,281 dwellings/year.
“This figure has been used as a core component of Medway Council’s Local Plan to assess the housing needed over the period covered by the plan (2012-2035).
“This work has already produced the ambitious figure of 29,463 homes required by 2035, [for] which the council has been tirelessly working to identify the land and infrastructure necessary to facilitate delivery.
“However, the flawed proposed government methodology would see a 29% uplift in the level of housing to be allocated to Medway, calling instead for 38,295 houses in the same period.
“The government may state that its approach represents a 5% increase across England, but there is significant variation in this figure.
“Within the South East, the average rise is an appalling 35%, yet the Conservative Group is disgusted to find that there are other local authorities who have in fact seen a fall in their level of housing need.
“Such authorities are largely in the north of England, reflecting the disjointed and disproportionate nature of this policy compared to the efforts the government has already been making to rebalance the economy and deliver the infrastructure in the north that would be able to support these homes.”
Responding to the statement, CPRE Kent vice chairman Richard Knox-Johnston said: “We welcome Medway Council’s statement as a first realistic reaction to the increased housing demand it has been allocated and the problems it will cause.
“CPRE has been saying for some time that the infrastructure is simply not sufficient to deal with the proposed new figures, while the DCLG approach does not address the real needs of young people and young families.”
Stressing further the views of his council, leader Alan Jarrett said: “Medway, like most of the South East, is an area already straining at the seams to accommodate the originally proposed level of growth, and therefore any increase to this figure will absolutely not be tolerated by Medway Conservatives.
“Whilst the Cabinet recognises the need for housing, and is already leading by example through the establishment of its own housing company, the sustainability of the government’s plan must be seriously questioned.
“Medway simply does not have the physical or social infrastructure to cope with any increased housing target. It is extremely unrealistic of DCLG to propose a change of target in the face of developers’ reluctance to build homes and a current lack of skilled workers to deliver these homes.
“Myself and my Conservative colleagues implore the three Medway MPs, and other Kent authorities and MPs, to follow suit in conveying to DCLG the severity of the concerns we have here in Kent and Medway.
“If the government were to ignore comments from this council, not only would this jeopardise the reams of work that have already gone into the production of Medway Council’s Local Plan but we face a scenario in which existing housing delivery targets will not be able to be met.
“On behalf of Medway residents, the Conservative Group will not stand idly by whilst our green spaces and our housing market are decimated.”
Thursday, October 26, 2017