No wonder the West of England Joint Plan ran in to trouble with such strangeness.
Just is what a panel for – to choose the ‘style’ of plan they like [facepalm].
Councils don’t want too many houses built in the West of England over the next 20 years in case they are “left empty”.
The local authorities for Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset have estimated the region will need 105,000 new homes by 2036.
They defended that number on July 4 as an examination of their joint spatial plan by government officials entered its third day.
Planning inspectors Malcolm Rivett and Steven Lee will determine whether the plan should be adopted, revised or withdrawn.
Developers, transport chiefs, campaign groups and other interested parties weighed in over the councils’ housing target, with home builders calling for it to be boosted to 140,000 and opponents saying it should be cut by as much as half.
But consultant Jonathan Lee, representing the four councils, defended the 105,000 figure, saying it was based on a “sound” assessment of housing need.
He admitted that figure would not deliver all of the 30,000 affordable homes needed, but said the council did not want to risk adding too many more homes to the market.
“We have to understand who is going to live in those houses,” he said. “We don’t want houses to be left empty.”
Barrister Christopher Young, representing a consortium of eight housing developers, said he found Mr Lee’s comments “strange”.
“I don’t think there’s any problems with houses being filled,” he said on behalf of Barratt Homes, Bloor Homes, Crest Nicholson, L&Q Estates, Gladman, Redrow Homes, Robert Hitchins, and Taylor Wimpey.
Mr Young argued vociferously that the housing market was “broken” and a “substantial boost” in the numbers was needed to improve housing affordability.
The consortium proposes boosting the housing target to 140,000, a figure backed by the Home Builders Federation.
The federation’s James Stevens said: “This is one of the most highly charged housing markets in the country. You could build 200,000 homes here and have no problem at all.”
Simon Fitton, from Crest, said “overallocation” of housing was the only way to build sufficient flexibility into the housing plan.
And Matt Griffith from industry group Business West warned that constraining house building risked jeopardising economic growth in the region.
But representatives from residents’ groups TRAPPD (Thornbury Residents Against Poorly Planned Development) and Nailsea Action Group expressed concern that the councils’ target of 105,000 homes was too high.
Robert Davis from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Avonside suggested a much lower target of 70,000 to 80,000, saying the West of England had already done “its fair share” of house building over the last 20 years.
Mr Davis said area was becoming “overcrowded” and that adding too many more new homes would put too much pressure on the community.
Mr Young asked the planning inspectors whether they would contemplate an “uplift” in the housing target to the level sought by developers.
But Mr Rivett replied: “We’re not just going to choose a figure we prefer.”
The councils’ calculation of housing need took into account predictions of population growth, demographic trends, migration, job growth, household numbers, house prices and other factors.
Student growth was also taken into account, except in the Bath area, where student housing is to be considered separately under the local plan.
Each factor used in the calculation was argued over by participants in the meeting.
The examination of the joint spatial plan continues next week, and further hearings are planned in September and October.
A decision is not expected before the end of this year.