In the light of the new NPPF announced by the Government this July does this Council by its actions to date on housing numbers agree with me that it has made a rod for its own and our residents backs?
In the light of the new NPPF announced by the Government this July does this Council by its actions to date on housing numbers agree with me that it has made a rod for its own and our residents’ backs?
In simple terms, the answer to your question is no.
In tackling our statutory plan-making responsibilities, the Council has followed and continues to follow Government legislative and policy requirements, so we have planned for no more than we should have based upon these requirements.
Having always estimated housing need based on Government policy and guidance, we have been regularly challenged and tested on appeal and in not one of these instances has an Inspector said we have delivered too much housing. On the contrary, we have seen the numbers increase. It is demonstrably clear in this context that the Council has done its statutory duty, but that does not mean that it is right.
As regards to the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), and associated guidance, the Government has, as expected, introduced a standardised methodology for calculating housing need across England. It uses the national household projection for each local authority and applies an affordability adjustment based on median house prices and earnings. It is therefore entirely independent from any past housing estimates, so this is a change.
The NPPF requires our future policies to meet the housing need calculated by the standardised methodology, unless there is agreement with other local authorities for some need to be met elsewhere. In the three to four months that I have been involved, I have not heard from any other local authority coming running to us saying: “Can we have some of your numbers?”
Housing need would be recalculated annually as new data on house prices and incomes become available, and when the Government publishes new national household projections. The exact figure will therefore change regularly, bringing a challenge to how we plan.
A new set of national household projections is imminent. These are expected to show slower household growth, leading to a lower overall housing need across England, and potentially a lower figure for Wokingham Borough.
Whilst confirming the standardised methodology, however, the Government has indicated that adjustments will be considered. This is in order to ensure the output of the methodology meets the Government’s well publicised 300,000 additional homes per year target. I am sure that all Members, on behalf of our residents, would join me in stating that this situation, which brings continued uncertainty, is wholly unsatisfactory and undermines our efforts to plan properly for the long term.
It is interesting that there were two petitions tonight on housing numbers and there is already a further substantial petition within the process. Stuart Munro did refer to Government legislation and policy, but I would challenge that. I would say that Wokingham Borough Council never challenged the housing numbers that were imposed on them, or after the Core Strategy was agreed. It never challenged the numbers. When will the smoke and mirrors end and when will this madness end? Everything that is being done in this chamber is being done without consultation and it is a disgrace.
The answer is that we are just about to go and talk to all the residents about the Local Plan. We did fight appeals on the numbers. We are not accepting the numbers. I know that members of my group will support me here and we had the Member Steering Group with our colleagues. We think that the numbers are ridiculous, but we are waiting until we have all our facts together. We intend to challenge those numbers.