Kent wins house building battle

Contributed by editor on Nov 29, 2004 - 06:16 PM


Kent County Council won its fight against major proposed increases in the number of houses to be built in the county at a crucial meeting  today (29 November).

The South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA) had wanted to consult on a range of house-building options including one that was 10,000 homes a year above the 25,500 currently being built in the south east. But a motion from Kent County Council Leader Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart opposing the increases was carried. All other county councils and Kent's district councils in the south east backed the reduction in SEERA's proposals.

Sir Sandy said Kent had 11 years of housing supply already in a land bank and available for use. There was, therefore, no reason to accelerate the release of yet further building land.

"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. Only two thirds of the proposed increase was for our residents and first-time buyers, which we are keen to help. The rest was apparently for people moving out of London or from elsewhere. SEERA's proposals were far too high and it is absolutely right to maintain current levels, which, given the government growth areas of Ashford and Thames Gateway, are already unprecedented," said Sir Sandy.

Kent County Council's Cabinet said the process being used at regional level to decide how many new homes should be built in Kent was deeply flawed, rushed and contained proposed building targets far too high for what is needed.

Sir Sandy's motion called for existing projections to be maintained. These range from 25,500 homes a year being built through to a maximum of 32,000. These figures will now be put out for consultation by SEERA in the New Year, instead of the range it wanted from 29,500 up to 36,000 a year.

Sir Sandy said our figures include an option based on what is actually being built at the moment. Even then, infrastructure needs like new roads, schools and hospitals to support the extra people are not keeping pace with development and that is absolutely essential. An acceleration in the building figures would have been disastrous for Kent.

"What we need is jobs, the funding for community infrastructure and above all a priority of protecting Kent's unique and priceless countryside."

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 Kent's unique environment. I believe the SEERA proposals were nowhere near making the case for an acceleration of house-building."