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Kent councils fail to meet house building targets

By Ellis Stephenson

Several councils in Kent are completing fewer properties than they should be.

Five of the area's 13 local authorities saw a drop in homes coming on the market than a year ago, data published by Kent County Council has found.

Ashford, Dover, Gravesham, Sevenoaks and Tonbridge and Malling councils all failed to complete as many in 2016/17 than they managed in 2015/16, according to net figures.

The number of houses each local authority has completed has been revealed. Picture: Chris Davey

The biggest fall in property completions was Ashford, which fell to 696 in 2016/17 from 1,022 the year before, representing a decrease of 326.

Meanwhile, Dover saw a drop of 314 completed homes, followed by 102 in Sevenoaks, 82 fewer in Tonbridge and Malling and 15 less in Gravesham.

A spokesman for Ashford Borough Council said: "Our level of housing completion is actually the fourth highest in the county.

"The previous year's figures included the homes created at the Panorama development, which made the total higher in relative proportions.

"Now that the junction 10a scheme is progressing, we are embarking on a period of substantial growth in Ashford.

"Work has already commenced on the development at Chilmington Green, which will provide 5,750 homes and, in the town centre, construction has begun on various housing schemes along Victoria Way.

"Last year's figures had already been factored into our Local Plan and the schemes mentioned, along with a number of other developments already included will contribute to higher completion rates over the coming years.

"We are confident that our Local Plan to 2030 supports Ashford's growth, setting out the strategies and policies for the future of the borough, providing strong communities and creating a borough that is a great place to live and work."

All other local authorities, including Medway Council, managed to achieve more completed properties in the year ending March 31, 2017, than the year before.

The document says there were 430 gross dwelling losses during 2016/17.

Councils can lose properties for a number of reasons, including schemes where roads need to be widened, regeneration areas, single large houses being demolished to make way for smaller properties or a single house being divided into two or more.

The news comes as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is considering feedback given on a consultation about fresh house building "aspirations".

Figures in the document set out the current assessment from local authorities of how much housing is needed in their area, according to the most recent publicly available document.

According to the dossier Ashford needs to build 825 homes every year, Canterbury 800, Dartford 585, Dover 529, Gravesham 363 and Maidstone 883.

"Our level of housing completion is actually the fourth highest in the county" - Ashford Borough Council spokesman

Sevenoaks needs 620 properties a year, Shepway 633, a total of 776 in Swale, 857 in Thanet, 696 in Tonbridge and Malling and 648 in Tunbridge Wells.

Officials have worked out Medway would need to build between 730 and 1,410 properties a year but an exact figure could not be confirmed as the local authority did not verify the number before the consultation ended.

That means, excluding Medway, the total number of homes needed every year according to the consultation report is 8,215.

In 2016/17 7,158 dwellings were completed in the same area, according to Kent County Council.

All councils apart from Dartford, Maidstone and Tonbridge and Malling failed to build the number set out in the consultation document.

The county council's report also shows the level of housing completions by green space and previously developed land (PDL).

It also shows last year 41.2% of dwellings were completed on green space and 58.8% on PDL, for everywhere apart from Medway.

The area with the highest building rate on green space was Dover, which had 66.7% of its development on green land and 33.3% on PDL.

Ashford Borough Council had the biggest year-on-year fall for the number of dwellings completed

At the other end of the scale Sevenoaks built only 17.3% of its new properties on green land and 82.7% on PDL.

Figures on building rates were not available for the Medway, Gravesham, Shepway, Tonbridge and Malling and Tunbridge Wells areas.

The government report says the figures are crucial to ensure the correct infrastructure is planned for by county councils.

"Housing completion numbers and their exact locations are used in providing and planning for services such as libraries, highways, emergency services, transport (bus and train) routes, schools and sport and leisure facilities," it adds.

"It is important to know if the right type of housing, ie affordable and family-type accommodation is being delivered in the right place.

"In 2001 central government identified four major growth areas in London and the south east.

"Two of these, Ashford and the Thames Gateway (south), lie within Kent."

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