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Home   Maidstone   News   Article

CPRE branch chairman Gary Thomas challenges Maidstone's housing needs target

15 January 2014
by Alan Smith

Branch chairman Gary Thomas

Branch chairman Gary Thomas

Maidstone council’s housing targets are being challenged by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

The authority has not yet officially adopted a figure, but while it has been preparing its new Local Plan, its estimate of the number of new homes required has grown from 10,000 to 19,600.

But CPRE said the true need was somewhere between 8,100 and 12,300.

Maidstone branch chairman Gary Thomas said: “The council does have a choice about what figure it commits to.

“Yes, the Government is requiring local authorities to base their targets on ‘an evidential basis of need’. But there is no fixed approach on how to do that.”

The council’s figures have been based on population growth estimates, but that involved making assumptions that were open to challenge.

One of the assumptions had been the growing life expectancy over the past two decades which statisticians had continued as a straight-line growth in the future.

Mr Thomas said: “Is it reasonable to assume this increased life expectancy will continue to grow?”

A similar assumption had been made about household size. There had been a trend towards smaller households, suggesting even the same population would require more homes, but the CPRE said the evidence nationally was that in the last two years this trend had reversed and households were again growing larger.

CPRE also found a disparity in the figure given for the number of existing houses in 2011, the start of the planning period. The housing need calculations start with a base of 64,420, but the council’s own figures in an annual monitoring report give the figure as 63,447 - almost 1,000 fewer.

The CPRE has written to council leader Cllr Chris Garland (Con) warning that thousands of new homes will impact adversely on the countryside and infrastructure.

Mr Thomas suggested choosing between the top and bottom numbers of its estimates, giving a new target of 10,000 homes by 2031.

The council’s latest 19,600 figure has been derived from a report prepared by Soho-based planning consultants GL Hearn.

Mr Thomas said: “We do question how GL Hearn came to be selected as the council’s adviser as their work is principally putting development schemes together for their developer clients.”

GL Hearn’s other clients include Taylor Wimpey, Barretts, Haslam Homes, One Housing Group, Frazer Property Developments and Tesco.



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