Changing housing targets could see 'controversial' developments in Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth
CHANGING housing targets are sending local authorities back to the drawing board as they face controversial decisions to create more developments.
Last September the government proposed new national housing targets, which would have deducted 3,000 homes from the combined targets that Portsmouth and Fareham needed to hit by 2037.
But those proposals have now been scrapped, meaning that Fareham Borough Council will have to amend its housebuilding plan and consult again with residents on additional development sites across the borough.
In December, residents gave feedback on a borough-wide development plan that was based on the proposed housing targets – only for the government to scrap the figures just two days before the consultation ended.
The proposed target would have seen 403 homes built a year across Fareham – now more than 508 are expected.
It means the council faces ‘controversial’ decisions as it looks to allocate new areas for development, according to Councillor Nick Walker, the council’s planning committee chairman.
Cllr Walker, who has chaired the committee for more than a decade, said: 'Our planning system seems to be changing every five minutes. A lot of other local authorities are in the same position.
'They give us impossible numbers and they say, ‘get on and build them’. And it's getting worse and worse.’
Concerned that the rush to build could lead to poorly designed developments, he added: 'We must be careful not to build the slums of the future.’
The council will begin a new consultation on additional sites before July, according to Fareham Borough Council leader Sean Woodward, who said it was right for the previous consultation to have used the proposed figures.
The Conservative Party politician said: ‘Two days before the consultation closed the government ripped up the proposal. .
‘Now we are facing absolutely impossible numbers.
‘The market will build what is required. No developer will build homes it cannot sell.
‘It's really sad - our party used to be against top down housing planning.’
Portsmouth City Council currently has a development plan up to 2027, and the local authority began consulting on a new plan in 2019.
Last year’s scrapped target would have seen 730 new homes built a year – now the city is back to its original figure of 855 new builds.
Meeting this target remains ‘very challenging’, according to Councillor Hugh Mason, cabinet member for planning policy and city development.
He said: ‘The earlier target of 730 homes would have been difficult but 855 means that we will have to consider the maximum number of homes, built to a decent standard, that we can get built on every piece of available land.’
Gosport Borough Council was expecting its figure to increase from 238 homes to 309 due to the previous proposals.
But even after they had been scrapped, the area faces an increase – to 344 homes – as the government looks to previous population projections to justify further home building in the area.
The government has set the area’s new target using 2014 Office of National Statistic figures, with a focus on fulfilling the Conservative Party election manifesto pledge on house building, according to Councillor Stephen Philpott.
He said: ‘The government sees local authorities as an obstacle, rather than a partner. That’s how we want to work – but it’s not being reciprocated.’
The council’s deputy leader, Councillor Graham Burgess, echoed Fareham councillors’ concerns about controversial developments being ‘shoe-horned’ into communities.
The Conservative politician said: ‘We are concerned that we will turn down applications and on appeal a government semi-quango will say, ‘yeah, that’s fine, put it there’.
‘Someone (in government) should look at a map of Gosport – we are 72 per cent built on.’
But other local authorities have been relieved by the government’s U-turn, with scrapped proposals requiring 963 new homes a year in Havant – but now its target remains at 504.
The government’s was right to abandon the proposals that had been generated by a ‘sterile’ algorithm, according to Havant Borough Councillor Gary Hughes, the council’s cabinet lead for planning.
Cllr Hughes said: ‘If the system was working, the government wouldn’t need to step in.
‘We have to build houses for young people. We have twice as many bedrooms as we need in Havant by 2037. And the people in those homes can’t say, “you can’t build any more houses”. It’s unjust.’
Housebuilding targets (minimum new homes per year)
Original – 855
2020 Revised – 730
New – 855
Original – 520
2020 Revised – 403
New – 508
Original – 238
2020 Revised – 309
New – 344
Original – 504
2020 Revised – 963
New – 504