Sunday, 22 December 2013

Maidstone does not need 13,000 unaffordable new homes - 22nd December 2013

Maidstone Greens have labelled the council's new assessment on housing demand, which would see 12,700 unaffordable homes being built [4], as ridiculous. The Greens have said that the Council seems focused on an aim of driving up economic growth in the town but this would be at the expense of not meeting the real housing need in the borough.

The report is based on government's forecast of population changes [1] and quotes a requirement of 6,900 affordable homes out of a total 19,600, i.e. 12,700 would not be classed as affordable. The Greens calculated that a total figure of 11,000 is reasonable but that they should be all high density, almost all affordable and all on brown field sites [2].

Stuart Jeffery, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Maidstone and the Weald: "The Conservatives must be grinning from ear to ear being able to point to a report that makes their own overinflated housing target seem reasonable. The report is based on government population forecasts, almost half of which are driven by an economic aim to move people from London and around the country into Maidstone.

"The Council's press release states that the high number of homes is needed to drive economic growth and I assume this perceived need for economic growth is behind the figure of 13,000 unaffordable homes. It is worth remembering that economic growth simply means longer hours, increasing resource usage and waste, and more building on green spaces.

"Suggesting that only 35% of new homes need to be affordable is particularly bizarre given that they state priorities for older people to down size, plus priorities for young people and new families. They do not mention that the other 65% would logically be incoming wealthy established families and they do not cite homelessness as problem despite the urgent need to tackle despite the eight fold rise in Maidstone[3]."


4. Maidstone Borough Council news release: 18 December 2013

Maidstone Borough Council has been working towards a figure of 14,800 homes up until now but a recent independent study by consultants G L Hearn has found that the borough’s objectively assessed need is 19,600 new dwellings up to 2031.

The objective assessment is based on the latest projections of the borough’s population growth over the next 20 years and the need to support economic growth and to provide suitable housing for a range of ages, tastes and incomes.  Maidstone will need a sustainable mix of housing for an ageing population, young people and families looking to remain in the area where they grew up.   

The Soho Square based consultants, one the UK’s leading practices, conclude that affordable homes will remain a priority with a need for 345 affordable homes each year over the period up to 2031.

Meeting the needs of older people will be a matter of considerable scale in the borough due to the projected growth in the over 65 population who will need specialist and extra care housing.  There will also be a need for more smaller properties as older households downsize.

The borough council is now working to assess whether the need can be met before setting a housing target up to 2031.

Of the 190 sites submitted for potential housing use during a call for sites earlier in the year, currently only 60 are being recommended for development due to strict criteria around suitability. Each site has been rigorously judged against a range of national and local planning criteria, regulations and policy, including sustainable location, ecology, highways, access to services, flood risk, landscape, heritage impacts, and adjacent uses. Further potential areas for housing that did not come forward in the call for sites have also been identified by the council and have been subject to the same strict assessment criteria.

As a result the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment has identified possible sites for 8,241 dwellings. All of these sites will be consulted upon and everyone will have the chance to have their say in Spring 2014. This consultation will be accompanied by a further call for sites to try to meet the gap between the borough’s objectively assessed housing need and the currently identified supply.

The council’s priority will be to use previously developed sites first.  In the five years 2007 to 2012, 87% of housing in the borough was on brownfield sites. It also proposes to focus development at existing settlements rather than creating new ‘villages’, focussing on those areas with the infrastructure to sustain development. Resources for additional infrastructure will be drawn from a range of sources including Section 106 agreements, and in the future Community Infrastructure Levy payments and the New Homes Bonus.

Sites for the remaining dwellings are still to be found and the National Planning Policy Framework allows for a number to be identified in the form of broad locations, rather than specific sites. The council is currently considering options for these broad locations, including development in the town centre.

The council is working with infrastructure providers to make sure that any potential problems caused by either individual sites or the cumulative impact of development can be taken into account, and solutions for these problems sought.

When adopted the Maidstone Borough Local Plan will give the council power to refuse development in unsuitable areas, protecting vital green space and countryside, and ensuring that development is sustainable and appropriate for the borough.


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