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New figures predict big rise in Kent’s population

The population in Kent is set to rocket by the end of the decade - sparking a fresh debate on housebuilding levels in the county.

An official document presented to Kent County Council (KCC) shows the number of inhabitants will have increased by 13% from 2018 and 2030, higher than the national average.

Housebuilding continues in order to meet Government targets
Housebuilding continues in order to meet Government targets

Critics say the growth is being driven by the rapid rate of housebuilding in Kent, caused by targets imposed by central government.

Much of the increase is driven by people leaving London to settle here as well as births exceeding deaths.

The Kent & Medway Economic Framework paper states: “The population has grown rapidly in recent years, increasing by 144,000 between 2010 and 2021.

“This level of growth equates to a 8.4% increase in the county’s population, compared with around 6.8% nationally.

“Looking to the future, Office for National Statistics' projections anticipate strong continued population growth of around 13% between 2018-30 (compared with around 9% growth nationally). Over the same period, the working age population is also expected to grow, by around 6% (double the UK rate of increase).”

Cllr Trevor Shonk
Cllr Trevor Shonk

Thanet independent county councillor Trevor Shonk said: “You can't move on the roads in Thanet these days because of the traffic caused by the place being overloaded with houses, rubber-stamped by Thanet District Council and imposed by central government.

“We need to stop building houses for Londoners and start building affordable rented homes for locals to live in. We have to return empty properties back to occupation again.”

Cabinet member for planning, infrastructure and economic development at Maidstone council, Cllr Paul Cooper, said: “People are living longer and there are quite a lot of people getting divorced later in life.

“There is not the availability of properties in London to meet the demand there. People are moving in a southeast-centric way out of London because they still need to commute a couple of times a week or month.

“If you stop building homes in Kent, people in London will still want to move here and the consequence of that is local house prices would become astronomically high. Building homes deals with that.

Cllr Paul Cooper
Cllr Paul Cooper

“I agree that the roads on Kent are a complete and utter nightmare but not building houses is not going to stop that, either. There has to be greater emphasis on delivering infrastructure.

“Kent will absorb a small proportion of immigration to the UK, but it is only a small part.”

Cllr Cooper said that more than 40,000 homes have been delivered in Kent in recent years which will have pushed the population up with many from the capital.

Green Party councillor Mark Hood said the argument that building more houses keeps prices down is a “myth”.

He added: “It gives me cause for worry if the predicted growth in Kent's population is as a result of people migrating here from other parts of the country.

Cllr Mark Hood, Green Party, Kent County Council
Cllr Mark Hood, Green Party, Kent County Council

“In any case the (Kent) prices are already way too expensive for most local people to afford. For me, you cannot have too much social housing so that people can have somewhere to live at a rent they can afford.

“The councils should be the developers, driving the provision of this housing.”

Cllr Hood, who also represents Tonbridge and Malling council, said that his authority faces delivering 16,000 houses in its Local Plan.

He added: “There is an imbalance in this country where there are more empty properties than there are homeless people who could occupy them.”

KCC's Kent Analytics explains: “Kent’s population grew by 14,600 people between mid-year 2021 and mid-year 2022.

County councillor Sean Holden (Con)
County councillor Sean Holden (Con)

“This is a result of a net figure of 14,000 people moving into Kent and an increase of 600 people through natural change – more births than deaths. These figures equate to a 95.7% increase due to net migration and a 4.3% increase due to natural change.”

The migration figure applies to those moving into the county from elsewhere in the UK – as well as those from outside our shores.

Conservative councillor for Cranbrook, Sean Holden, agreed the population increase is not organic.

He said: “It (the population) is increasing from without not within. The allocation of housebuilding targets in Kent is way too high - that's what is driving it.

“We should stop building houses until we can get the infrastructure sorted out.

For more: Find out where people live in Kent broken down by area

“Population increases puts pressure on resources and with it the need for services like GPs and schools.

“The government should be looking to the north for their population expansion, if that is what they want to do.”

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