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Government push for more homes "undeliverable" warn Tonbridge and Malling council planners

By Paul Francis

Council planners in west Kent have warned the government that new house-building targets are undeliverable amid signs of growing backlash across the county over demands for thousands more homes.

Tonbridge and Malling council is the latest authority to sound a warning about the new higher targets that ministers say are needed to address the chronic housing crisis.

It has emerged that the three Medway MPs had written to housing minister Sajid Javid saying the targets would be “ruinous” and stifle economic growth.

Hundreds of extra homes are now expected to be constructed in Ashford
Hundreds of extra homes are now expected to be constructed in Ashford

Tonbridge and Malling council says the government’s fresh assessment would mean a 23% increase in the number of new homes the authority says are needed.

Indicative figures show the council would be expected to have 859 new homes built each year for the next two decades - when its own assessment suggests 696 homes are required.

"It is in simple terms undeliverable, unless there were to be intervention in the housing and construction market unprecedented in recent times..." - Tonbridge and Malling council

In its response to the government’s consultation on the new targets, the council warns:

“Over the 20 year Local Plan, this equates to an additional 3,260 dwellings. To deliver this level of housing growth would require a growth rate of 1.6%, which has never been achieved in Tonbridge and Malling or indeed by any authority in England over the period 2001-16.

"It is in simple terms undeliverable, unless there were to be intervention in the housing and construction market unprecedented in recent times.”

The council has also warned it anticipates the London Mayor will look to Kent to meet its own shortfall of houses - estimated to be 23,000 a year.

And it warns that neighbouring authorities such as Maidstone are facing similar challenges and will be unable to absorb further increases.

Tom Tugendhat MP
Tom Tugendhat MP

Planning chiefs say increasing the number of new homes will not bring down prices and address affordability. They say:

“The premise that increasing housing supply will increase affordability simply does not apply to those authorities in close proximity to London. Increasing the supply of market housing will not have a significant impact on prices, even if developers were willing and able to deliver at the rates necessary.”

Ian Bailey, the council’s Planning Policy Manager said: “The council has a number of concerns regarding proposals set out in a recent consultation and we have submitted a full response highlighting our views.”

Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat said it was important there were enough affordable homes.

“There are an awful lot of young people in our area who want to work and set up home and that requires house-building. It will certainly start to address the affordability factor. Whether it brings it [prices] down or slows it, either way clearly supply and demand are two basic elements in the economic equation.”

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says he is uneasy at building on green field land. He told the CBI conference that he was sceptical about the use of the greenbelt for development.

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