Javid’s Numbers Don’t Add up – Avoiding ‘tearing up countryside’ needs 16+ storeys not 4

Javid in Daily Mail

Having a safe, secure place to call your own is something many of us take for granted. Yet with the average house now costing eight times average earnings, many of our children and grandchildren have found the door to the housing market slammed shut in their faces.

The only way to open it again is by building a lot more houses. But as today’s White Paper makes clear, we don’t have to tear up our precious countryside to do so.

We’re simply not making the best use of the space that’s available. London, for example, is much less densely populated than European equivalents such as Paris, Berlin and Rome. Madrid is a beautiful city of low-rise buildings and broad boulevards, yet every hectare is home to 3.5 times as many people as the same space in the British capital.

But increasing density doesn’t mean filling our towns and cities with huge, ugly tower blocks packed with tiny one-bed rabbit hutches.

After all, some of the most densely populated parts of London are places such as Kensington and Chelsea, home to extremely desirable mansion blocks, mews houses and grand terraced streets. There’s plenty of scope for building more of the high-quality homes people want to live in, in places where they want to live. We just have to be more imaginative.

Look at your railway station. The chances are it’s in a built-up area where demand for housing is high, yet it’s also quite likely to be surrounded by under-used or derelict land that would be perfect for housing.

Maybe that’s warehouses that could be better situated elsewhere, or car parks that could be moved underground. Elsewhere, buildings could be extended upwards by a floor or two to increase capacity without ruining skylines.

Creating more homes in the hearts of our towns and cities will also revitalise our high streets. I grew up above the family shop on the high street in Bristol, and loved being able to walk out of the door into a thriving, buzzing community.

Getting more people living in town centres, within walking distance of shops, pubs and cafes, won’t just create lively new communities – it will provide a much-needed boost for local businesses.

Add in serious support for new infrastructure – from GP surgeries to playgrounds – and it’s clear our built-up areas are home to huge untapped potential. The plans I’m publishing today show how we can make them home to thousands of ordinary working people too.


This is nonsense.  By all means build at higher densities, but if you want to do mainly mansion blocks not tower blocks (and most development in the SE is at mansion block density anyway so what difference will it make – without ‘tearing up the countrtyside his numbers just dont add up). Indeed his policy sound suspiciously like that adopted by Hammersmith Torys before they lost there majority which was seeking a REDUCTION in density from the norm in London.

I did a detailed analysis of this before the weekend here  ill repost below:

Sun on HWP

local authorities told the green belt is no longer sacrosanct for development. They will be encouraged to start building on it once brownfield sites have been filled.

Simple simple maths on Stock and Flow for Theresa May and her Sith Aides (there can be only two). 

How many housing units gets built on brownfield each year?

The last data we have from 2014 showed that 60% of new residential address built in 2013-14 were constructed on previously developed land. It falls to 45% for net additional addresses.  This figure has risen to that which it was for several years before the recession.  So we can assume it will be steady in the future in a ‘policy off’ scenario

Of course sites become ‘previously developed’ all the time – and CPRE point out that NLUD data on available site remains static – so that suggests a steady ‘inflow’ of brownfield sites roughly matching the ‘outflow’.

Last year around 170,000 houses were built.   Again assuming a ‘policy change off’ scenario that equates to around 76,000 houses per year brownfield and brownfield land suitable and available for housing of around the same number.

So that’s the flows in and out whats the stock.

The NLUD data now rather out of date and dating back to 2010 suggest 325,000 or so.  In 2015 the Dept finally agreed to update it and provide a brownfield register which we have not seen yet.

CPRE always claimed a figure of 1 1/2 million before 2014, not the need over 15 years is 3 million.  To their credit they commissioned research estimating it at around 1 million.  However most of this land was that already with planning permission and so not net additional supply.  So if we dont have 5 year supplies things were only going to get worse not better.

They estimated a further 550,000 homes can be located on suitable vacant or derelict land.  This is the figure that should be quoted.  Being generous lets use it.

So lets assume in our neutral forecast we have a brownfield ‘stock’ which is being added to by around 76,000 (land for equivalent housing units)/annum and being depleted by 76,000 units/annum.

Accepting the HWP target of 300,000 units per annum (which including drawing down backlog and restoring affordability to 1997 levels) then 25% of the houses we need are being developed on Brownfield Sites. But the shortfall will have risen by 300,000-175,000=125,000.

Lets assume two policy scenarios.

In scenario one brownfield development stays static and all increase come from greenfield.

In the other the rate of brownfield development doubles to around 150,000/annum.

In the first 75% of all housing must come on greenfield sites to meet the target.

In the second 175,000 a year in first year is brownfield, 58%, so 125,000 greenfield units must be built, a 75% increase on the current number of houses built on Greenfield.

But that rate cant be sustained because the stock is depleting by 500,000-175,000+76,000=  around 100,000/annum.  So within 5 years the stock is depleted to only 76,000 /annum of new brownfield sites coming forward.

The numbers dont add up.  Even in a heroic assumption of brownfield development doubling over night most of it would be used up in 5 years leaving only a trickle of new brownfield sites which would never run out and provide only 25% of the supply we need.  In this context ‘Brownfield first’ if applied extremely as in the phrase ‘filled up’ would mean 75% of those needing a home would be without one.

There are policy alternatives

  1. build all brownfield sites at 4x the density requiring public subsidy if necessary and families being forced (at point of a gun?) to move to areas with more brownfield sites- like milltowns with few jobs.
  2. Increasing the rate at which brownfield sites come forward by 4x redeveloping all employment sites assuring those forced to move at a point of a gun have no job to move to even if they could move freely (which of Course Theresa Maybe doesn’t like).
  3. Dont build housing if it means building on greenfield – reduce housing targets by 75% and everybody lives in bunk beds in their mums house.

Its a none starter policy reminiscent of the early policies of John Prescott which failed and which will be forced by the continuing housing crisis to be reversed.

So Javid to avoid ‘tearing up thecountryside’ requires a 4X of density.  Typcially 4-8 storeys in London becomes 16-32 – Chinese City heights.

Less than that requires an increase in both the rate and % of development of greenfield sites or the elimination of employment space in London- no way around this.

BTW Sajid cities are good places for warehouses otherwise our roads would be full of trucks making longer deliveries and further ruining our air quality targets.


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