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Housing supply consultation response

Friday 17 November

Proposed housing targets are in 'realms of fantasy'

Proposals to change how the Government sets housing targets for councils have been compared to a bad workman blaming their tools.

Swale Borough Council has strongly criticised the proposals in the Department for Communities and Local Government consultation on boosting housing supply.

The consultation proposed a standard method for calculating local authorities’ housing need, which would see Swale’s housing target increase from 776 homes to 1,054.

Cllr Gerry Lewin, deputy leader of the council, and cabinet member for planning at the council, said:

"The housing market is broken, and families are struggling to save to afford a home in their local area.

"When we originally drew up our local plan, we based the housing target on the evidence of what developers were capable of building in the area. That was deemed too pessimistic by the inspector and, despite our arguments that this was unrealistic, the target was raised, and we had to find additional sites.

"After passionate debate and discussion, our local plan was adopted, giving us – so we had been led to believe – control of where developers were allowed to build.

"Now, as we argued from the start, developers are failing to bring forward and build out the much-needed new homes quickly enough, so the increased targets aren’t being met.

"And the Governments suggested solution? Increase the targets again!

"The Government’s misdiagnosis of the problem in the consultation paper is akin to a bad workman blaming his tools for a lousy job.

"We entirely reject the proposal for a one-size-fits-all housing target that would take the numbers expected to be built from what could charitably be described as ‘optimistic’, into the realms of fantasy.

"This isn’t nimbyism, or shirking our role in the delivery of much-needed housing – we have already shown we can make often unpalatable decisions to identify sites for homes.

"We are simply urging the Government to recognise that developers are not fulfilling their end of the deal by building them.

"This creates the perverse situation where developers themselves can profit when planning inspectors see targets aren’t being met and allow unsuitable development outside the scope of adopted local plans.

"We need the Government and developers to commit to working with us to address the issues around housing, infrastructure and economic growth, and gives local voices who best know the potential and limitations of an area, to be heard."

The council has responded to the Government consultation on future housing numbers in England and Wales 'Planning for the right homes in the right place' with a detailed response and covering letter.