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Proposed housing algorithm would threaten countryside, says CPRE

Words: Laura Edgar
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Analysis by countryside charity CPRE suggests that the government’s proposed housing algorithm would not deliver the affordable homes that English communities need. 

Rather, the algorithm would “allow developers to build hundreds of thousands of poorly located new homes in the countryside threatening locally valued green space”, says the campaign group.

It also “completely undermines” government ambitions for urban regeneration.

A “revised” standard method for calculating housing need is part of the government's proposed planning reforms, set out in Planning for the Future. The consultation for the method closed on 1 October, while the consultation for Planning for the Future closes on 29 October.

CPRE says the proposed algorithm “completely misses the mark”, and would mean that areas such as Cumbria and Cotswold district would see “huge increase” compared with the current standard method (178 per cent and 148 per cent increases respectively) while urban areas including Manchester, Leicester and Gloucester would see decreases of 37 per cent, 35 per cent and 12 per cent respectively. 

CPRE's analysis found:

  • Cumbria – Home to the Lake District National Park, the county would see an increase of 178 per cent in housing targets.
  • Yorkshire and the Humber – rural Richmondshire would see a 933 per cent increase while Scarborough would see a 97 per cent increase in housing targets. 
  • Gloucestershire – The Cotswolds would see a 148 per cent increase, with Tewkesbury set for a 84 per cent increase and a 64 per cent increase in the Forest of Dean. Gloucester, though, would see a 12 per cent decrease.
  • Leicestershire – The algorithm would see Leicester have to deliver 35 per cent less housing, while Blaby would need to deliver 233 per cent more and the district of North West Leicestershire would see an increase of 221 per cent in its housing target. 
  • Hampshire – Basingstoke and Deane would see a decrease of 23 per cent, compared with increases of 118 per cent and 96 per cent for Havant and Fareham respectively.
  • West Midlands – Birmingham would see a decrease of 15 per cent in its housing target.
  • Greater Manchester: Manchester would see a decrease of 37 per cent in its housing target.

In addition, those areas that have seen the sharpest house price rises since the 2009 recession would get the highest number of new homes. This, says the CPRE, would deliver bigger profit for developers rather than building homes in areas where people can afford to live. 

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said: “We are in the midst of a housing crisis and need to deliver many more well-designed, genuinely affordable homes in the right places, including in rural areas. But our analysis has shown the government’s far-reaching and untested changes to local planning could lead to the worst of all possible worlds – gobbling up our countryside without delivering the affordable homes our rural communities are crying out for.

“To begin delivering the homes we need at the pace we need them, the government should abandon centralised housing targets and ensure planning remains locally led with local authorities and communities empowered to have a say in what gets built where. It’s clear that governing by algorithm doesn’t work but the problems with the government’s planning proposals don’t end there. What we need is a major rethink and careful, sensible reform to create a planning system that delivers genuinely affordable homes, protects locally valued green space and countryside, while boosting trust and participation in the planning system of the future.”

This shift from urban to rural would, CPRE believes, “put a higher number of greenfield sites under even greater pressure”. 

The RTPI has responded to the consultation on the proposed new method to calculate housing need. For the institute, it “simply does not make sense”. 

The new formula, says the institute, would result in unprecedented high housing targets in the south of England, which would be undeliverable by some local authorities because of the lack of available land.

The proposed new method would, the RTPI believes, do little towards the prime minister’s “levelling up” agenda and could actually exacerbate current imbalances in housing requirements in the north of England. 

Read more:

RTPI criticises proposed housing algorithm in formal response to government consultation  

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