Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Housing Numbers

No sooner do I say that I'm finishing newsletters for the year than one of the big news stories that I mentioned breaks, and so I'm sending out an additional newsletter rather sooner than expected.

As regular readers will know one of the big issues for Broxtowe is the number of new houses that the council will permit to be built over the next 15 years.
Most of the councils in Greater Nottingham have worked together on this and as a result of those negotiations Broxtowe was given a figure of 6,150 houses to allocate, the lowest of any borough in the area.

Unfortunately there is not enough brownfield land available to build 6,150 houses and so this figure would mean that some greenbelt land would have to be used. No-one wants to do this but there is simply no other way to hit this target.

Our MP, Anna Soubry, and her colleagues in the Conservative Party have been campaigning against this, even though we are following the rules set by the Conservative Secretary of State. Anna's line consistently is that we should follow the example of the one authority in Greater Nottingham out of step with all the others, namely Rushcliffe. Rushcliffe have ignored the targets set by the Government and adopted by all the other authorities and simply tried to build the amount of houses that they think is appropriate. I have asked Anna how much housing she thinks should be allowed but she has chosen to ignore my emails.

Every council has to have it's strategy approved by an independent inspector at a public enquiry. The inspector appointed to conduct the enquiry for Rushcliffe has now written to them saying that their proposal is fundamentally flawed,

1) It doesn't comply with the regional plan, which set the figure of 6,150
2) It doesn’t comply with the National Planning policy Framework, the
new set of planning rules published by the Secretary of State earlier this year.
3) It doesn't allocate enough housing
4) It doesn't allocate enough affordable housing
5) It doesn't take into account the need across Greater Nottingham, and
just concentrates on Rushclffe. The inspector said that it is important that the needs of the wider area are considered.
6) They haven't fulfilled their duty to co-operate with other councils

As a result of these flaws the inspector has said that she is not even going to arrange a date for their public enquiry yet, as all this will need to be sorted first.

Rushcliffe have published the inspectors note to them about the problems with their strategy. To give them credit, they hid it very well. I can only find it on their web site as an attachment to a press release that was issued yesterday morning and which gives a wholly misleading picture of the inspectors comments.
They then immediately issued a whole load of other press releases so that this never appeared on the front page of their media centre, almost as though they were hoping no-one would see it. If you are interested in having a look this link will take you straight to it:

Where does this leave people as a result? Well for Rushcliffe Borough Council they are firmly up the creek without a paddle. They have no current plan and now no future plan. As a result it will be open season for developers there.
All their undeveloped land is now fair game for developers to try and build on.
It does raise very serious questions about the ability and judgement of their political leaders. This isn't just scare mongering on my part, the same thing is happening in Castle Point council in Essex, in Bude council in Cornwall and in Stratford Council in Warwickshire where a new housing estate is being developed right next to Anne Hatthaway's cottage.

Here in Broxtowe Anna Soubry is left with significant amounts of egg on her face. If we had taken the path that she was advocating, which she has been telling people for at least the past year was the right thing to do, then we would be in the same mess as Rushcliffe. No-one wants to build on the green belt but those of us running the council found ourselves in a position where we had no choice. To then have our MP launch an extremely nasty and vindictive campaign against us was extremely galling, and I do now feel completely vindicated. By being willing to consider sacrificing a small part of Broxtowe's green belt we have saved the rest of it from development.

I apologise if this sounds like gloating. It is not meant to, but I am highly relieved that no-one can now have any doubts that Broxtowe did the right thing by accepting the housing numbers proposed. The only question now still to be resolved is where exactly they should be built, and here there are genuine reasons to disagree as any site that is put forward will have it's supporters and it's critics I hope that we can engage with people in a constructive way over this question, now that the distraction of the overall numbers has been set aside.

Best wishes