Kent targeted to take huge housing hit

If government proposals are accepted, Kent will have to find room for more than 12,000 new homes a year

Kent faces taking the brunt of the government’s massive proposed hike in housebuilding levels for the South East.

This month’s beginning of a national consultation into changing the planning system in a bid to boost the amount of homes being built details a total of 3,400 extra dwellings a year – a rise of 8 per cent – on current targets across the region.

Staggeringly, two-thirds of these are earmarked for Kent, a county already having to accommodate some of the highest levels of housebuilding in the country.

If the proposals are accepted, Kent’s local authorities will need to identify enough land for 2,313 more homes a year, a 24 per cent increase on plans already in place.

The government’s proposed change in methodology is laid out in the Department for Communities and Local Government document Planning For The Right Homes In The Right Places: Consultation Proposals.

It would see a 15 per cent hike in housebuilding across the country, with London seeing the greatest increase at 79 per cent, or an extra 31,994 new homes on the capital’s current figure.

Not everywhere is expected to take more housing, however. It is suggested that the North West’s housing target is cut by 23 per cent, Yorkshire and Humberside’s by 22 per cent and the West Midlands’ by 8 per cent.

It is difficult to see how this tallies with the government’s concept of a Northern Powerhouse or indeed with the idea of reducing the focus of development on what is widely accepted to be an overheated South East, but there are further baffling aspects to the proposals even within the region.

After Kent, West Sussex is earmarked for the biggest increase, with an extra 1,290 dwellings a year, followed by Hampshire, with 1,211. Two counties, however, can breathe a sigh of relief, at least for the time being, as their proposed targets are being cut.

Oxfordshire has had its figure slashed by 1,590 a year, or 32 per cent, while East Sussex sees a cut of 1,095, or 28 per cent.

Quite why Oxfordshire, for example, facing similar development and population pressures to Kent, should see such a drastic proposed reduction in its figure while Kent, if the proposals come to pass, will be expected to build more than 12,000 houses a year, is anyone’s guess, but there is surely a suspicion that our county is being offered as a sacrificial lamb while other, arguably more fashionable, parts of the region are spared the full scale of the onslaught.

CPRE Kent Director Hilary Newport said: “The existing targets were already too high, so this latest development makes for some sorry reading.

“We absolutely accept the need for more housing, but we need to have the right types of homes in the right places. However, the higher levels proposed here will merely allow housebuilders to target sites in the countryside that will not provide the affordable housing that is so desperately needed.”

The views of delighted South Oxfordshire MP John Howell, meanwhile, are illuminating: “The new methodology…  ends the tyranny of the current strategic housing market assessment. Some areas will not see a reduction [in housebuilding targets] but, to be honest, my only interest is in the Henley area and Oxfordshire.”

Here’s hoping Kent’s MPs will be similarly focused on looking after the interests of the places and people they represent.

27 September 2017

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