Council boss fights steep rise in homes

Contributed by editor on Nov 26, 2004 - 09:00 PM


Kent takes its fight against major proposed increases in the number of houses to be built in the county to a crucial meeting o­n Monday (29th November).

The South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA), which wants to significantly increase the numbers, meets in Woking and will receive a motion from Kent County Council Leader Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart opposing the increases. All other county councils in the South East will be supporting this call for a reduction in SEERA's housing ambitions.
Sir Sandy will question the Government and SEERA prediction that o­ne-third of the Government's current housing allocation for the South East could be needed for migration into the southern counties from London, the North, from abroad and from outside the South East.
Sir Sandy said: "Of course we need more houses for Kent's own young people, first time buyers and for more elderly people living alone; this is exactly what we have planned for. The present Regional Planning Guidance of 28,000 homes per year more than allows for this. Two thirds of this figure is made up of the needs of the Kent and South East population to have more houses and o­ne third has been added to take inward migration into the South East counties from the north, the rest of the UK and abroad. The problem is that o­n top of this the SEERA proposals call for up to a staggering 36,000 houses a year  a 30% increase. What is the point in simply moving more and more people into an already overcrowded South East?"
On Monday 22 November Kent County Council's Cabinet concluded that the process now being used at regional level to decide how many new homes should be built in Kent is deeply flawed, being rushed and contains proposed building targets that are far too high for what is needed.
Kent County Planning Officer Leigh Herington described SEERA's proposals as "the most chaotic process I have come across in 30 years of dealing with major planning issues."
Kent County Council's Cabinet believes the existing projections should be maintained and consulted upon. These range from the 25,500 homes a year currently being built in the South East, the present Regional Planning Guidance at 28,000 per year, through to a maximum of 32,000. Consultation o­n new figures will take place in January and SEERAs proposals for the South East range from 29,500 up to 36,000 a year. This would mean Kent's share increasing by 30%.
Sir Sandy said: "We are proposing housing allocations which are significantly less than SEERAs. Our figures are based o­n what is actually being built at the moment and what Kent's own people need.
"Last year we produced a report for the Government showing that even for the current Government housing allocation we needed £9.6 billion of infrastructure funding for new roads, schools, community facilities and extra hospitals.
"Kent has a united front. The absolute maximum that KCC and Kent Districts will accept is the current Regional Planning Guidance. What we need is jobs, the funding for community infrastructure and above all a priority of protecting Kents unique and priceless countryside.
"We are, however, totally supportive of building o­n brownfield sites, such as in the Thames Gateway. Kent already has a 10 year landbank of mainly brown land available now. We do not need further regional allocations."
Sir Sandy said Kent's existing rates of build had been extensively tested through the Kent Structure Plan process that had involved widespread public consultation.
"There is a careful balance to be maintained between building new homes, providing the right infrastructure and protecting Kents unique environment. I believe the SEERA proposals come nowhere near to making the case for an acceleration of housing build."