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Swale council leaders have criticised government plans to increase house building in the borough

By KentOnline reporter

A government review that could force Swale’s house-building target to rise by more than 200 homes per year has been labelled “impossible”.

A Department for Communities and Local Government consultation proposes a standard method for calculating local authorities’ housing need, which would see the borough’s housing target increase from 776 homes to 1,054 per year over the next 20 years.

Council leader Cllr Andrew Bowles (Con) said most local authorities were being forced to consider new settlements, which need expensive infrastructure such as new roads.

Cllr Andrew Bowles
Cllr Andrew Bowles

In his leader’s statement delivered at this week's Full Council meeting, he said: “Even a new settlement of up to 10,000 dwellings would, from evidence elsewhere, only produce circa 300 homes per annum.

“This would suggest to comply with the estimated targets, Swale may have to look at more than one new settlement plus some additional dwellings on further greenfield sites at the start of the planning period to meet the five-year supply target. I repeat my assertion included in my last leader’s statement that it is in my opinion impossible, I could even say barmy.”

In July, Swale council adopted its controversial Local Plan where councillors agreed to a minimum of 776 homes per year until 2031.

More new homes could be built in Swale under government proposals
More new homes could be built in Swale under government proposals

Cllr Bowles said the local authority expected this figure to be protected until April 2022.

However, it is seeking clarity on whether the shortfall from this period, about 1,120 homes, will be added to the rest of the plan period, from 2022 to 2037.

Cllr Gerry Lewin (Con), deputy council leader and cabinet member for planning, said: “After passionate debate and discussion, our local plan was adopted, giving us – so we had been led to believe – control of where developers were allowed to build.

Cllr Gerry Lewin
Cllr Gerry Lewin

“Now, as we argued from the start, developers are failing to bring forward and build the much-needed new homes quickly enough, so the increased targets aren’t being met.

“And the government’s suggested solution? Increase the targets again.

“The government’s misdiagnosis of the problem in the consultation paper is akin to a bad workman blaming his tools for a lousy job.”

He said the council rejected the notion of a “one-size-fits-all” housing target and said failure to meet the targets could lead to a situation where developers could profit from building unsuitable developments outside the scope the Local Plan.

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