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Letter: Housing prediction for Local Plan grossly inflated

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SIR – Your article, ‘Plan allowing 10,000 new homes approved (A&T, 10th July), reports that many councillors were unhappy about allowing at least three housing sites being included in the new district Local Plan.

We are not in the least surprised, nor at Cllr Edward Heron’s warning that defeat for the plan could lead to central government imposing its own quota of up to 20,000 homes.

A pity that this decision was made only days before the latest housing projections were published by the government’s own Office for National Statistics. These show that the 2014 projections, which were used to predict the numbers of houses required by the Local Plan to be built in New Forest district, were grossly inflated, and the current projections are up to 50% lower.

This continues the trend to lower future numbers contained in the 2016 housing projections.

So why are we in this position where local authorities, who should know the needs of their areas for housing, are required to use predictions which are so far out of date?

Government does not allow this to occur where a council wants to refuse a housing development because it would harm the environment. In those cases, any provisions to protect the environment are over-ridden if they are in a Local Plan which is “out of date” simply because there is insufficient housing to meet the government’s prediction of housing requirements.

That is the situation faced by New Forest district which is among the “worst performing” councils in meeting those predictions.

This Kafkaesque farce has been going on since the 2016 housing predictions were available, well before the Local Plan was published and agreed by the council and almost three years before the examination in public of the plan.

The answer is because, as the editor of respected professional journal Planning says in his comment on the situation: “Ministers unashamedly say that the old data should be used because it fits in better with the arbitrary government target that 300,000 new homes a year should be built in England by the mid-2020s.”

In what alternative universe are ministers living where they can demand local authorities and their own planning inspectors must knowingly use obsolete statistics to justify inflicting damage to the environment across communities, and expect local councillors to vote blindly in support via threats to impose such nonsense?

As two retired planning inspectors we think your communities deserve better.

Richard Tamplin and Colin Thompson

Addresses supplied

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