Published: 14:22, 11 September 2020
| Updated: 15:19, 11 September 2020
A group of ten MPs has called on the government to think again over proposed housing targets, as a "disproportionate burden" in being placed on Kent communities.
Whitehall is consulting on changes to the system which dictates how many homes should be built in local authority areas, and could see an additional 2,835 a year built across the county, in places which have "already shouldered a substantial amount of housing growth in recent years.
In a letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Kent MPs have warned that the increase could leave many local plans in tatters and threaten community trust.
They say: "These new proposals will now create further increases in the annual housing targets of between 25% and 85% for the Kentish local authority areas represented by the signatories to this letter.
"By way of comparison, however, housing numbers required for the Northern Powerhouse regions, such as Greater Manchester, are scheduled to decrease under the proposed reforms."
The letter was signed by Helen Grant, for Maidstone and the Weald, Roger Gale, for North Thanet, Tracey Crouch, for Chatham and Aylesford, Gordon Henderson, for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, Tom Tugendhat, for Tonbridge and Malling, Damian Green, for Ashford, Rehman Chisti for Gillingham and Rainham, Craig Mackinlay for South Thanet, Gareth Johnson for Dartford and Greg Clark for Tunbridge Wells.
The letter went on: "Under the government's new proposals, new homes will need to be delivered in areas which have already shouldered a substantial amount of housing growth in recent years.
"They are areas where road infrastructure is creaking, particularly in our towns, where school places are under pressure and where access to GP appointments is proving increasingly difficult."
The group added there is understandable and widespread concern amongst constituents about the impact on green spaces, going on to say: "The proposals appear inherently unreasonable, particularly to those local authorities who have already successfully work with the government to deliver the homes we need.
"One has to question the propriety of constantly increasing targets with completely unrealistic transitional timescales, being foisted upon our hard-working planners, executives and elected officials in such a demotivational and punitive manner."
"The proposed changes will arrest well-considered town and country planning and threaten community trust and consent. We therefore ask that you look at the proposed changes and seek to relieve the disproportionate burden they place on our communities in Kent."
The group added that time and taxpayer's money already spent will be wasted as planners will be left to restart the local plan and questioned whether houses could be built at the speed required.
'The proposals appear inherently unreasonable...'
They finished by asking for a meeting with Mr Jenwrick, saying "time is of the essence." The consultation period finishes on October 1.
In Maidstone, the housing target imposed by the government would rise from 1,214 to 1,569, under the proposed changes.
Maidstone Borough Council has already fought back against the 1,214 figure, requesting that the number stay at 883 until the end of the Local Plan period in 2031.
Councillors in the County Town are now trying to delay the impact of this latest housing target, by asking officers to prepare a revised timeline designed to shorten the preparation period for the Local Plan Review.
The consultation documents say the government's new approach is based on trying to meet its commitment to delivering 300,000 new homes a year, and achieving a more appropriate distribution of homes.