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Extra homes won't be forced on town

Ashford will not be forced to build more houses by the Government but other parts of the county are to be told to up their targets for new homes.

Ministers have announced they want to see house-building targets for the South East increase overall by four per cent in a bid to help first-time buyers and to increase the availability of affordable homes.

The Government’s controversial call comes in its verdict on the South East Plan, a key planning blueprint that sets out how many homes should be built Kent and the South East between now and 2026.

The target for Ashford – already designated as a Government growth area – will not change.

It means the aim to build 1,135 homes a year over the period of the plan remains unchanged.

But in neighbouring Shepway, ministers want to see the target increase to 290 homes a year, meaning 5,800 homes over the next 20 years.

Planning inspectors had recommended no change in the original target of 255 homes a year but ministers are calling for a 14 per cent increase. Ministers say the annual target for the region should be increased to 33,125 homes a year.

Following a public inquiry last year, inspectors had recommended a target of 32,000 homes. South East councils had originally argued for 28,900.

Kent County Council leader Cllr Paul Carter (Con), who became the new chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly this week, said: “The Government seems determined to show it has the power to override the region’s own realistic housing targets, which balance growth with the need for decent infrastructure and to protect the environment.

“These new Government targets threaten to destroy that balance.”

He added: “It is unacceptable to increase housing numbers to a level that threatens to be undeliverable – particularly in the current economic climate.”

Announcing further consultation on the plan, Communities Minister Parmjit Dhanda said: “Beyond the short-term squeeze of the credit crunch the number of new households are still outgrowing the number of homes being built – first-time buyers are getting older and more people are choosing to live alone.

“If more homes are not built now for the long term the housing ladder will get even further out of reach leaving the next generation with nowhere to live.”

More than a third of all housing will have to be affordable.

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