Fringe Box



Letter: Local Plan, Not Local Politics Please

Published on: 17 Jun, 2016
Updated on: 17 Jun, 2016

Guildford Housing House NumberFrom Tony Rooth

Lead councillor for housing and Conservative ward councillor for Pilgrims

Party politics and name calling seems to dominate the current debate about Guildford’ s Local Plan which is intended to run until 2031.

Surely we should concentrate on our housing shortage and ask some questions such as:

Why does demand really exceed supply?

The answer is because our borough population has increased by around 750 each year since 2001, while, unfortunately, in the years 2006/15, only 250 new homes on average have been built annually.

So home prices to buy and rent have gone through the roof. Our younger generations need either a “Bank of Mum and Dad” to help them buy or a reasonable income to rent or buy – a household earning £50,000 per year might only now be able to buy a property valued around £275,000.

What housing is needed for current and future generations?

All ages must be given a chance to find somewhere to live, let alone get on the housing ladder. The council’s consultants produced a detailed analysis that the borough needs 13,860 (693 homes a year) to try and catch up with our housing deficit over 20 years.

Some residents may not like this figure but, whatever any viable alternative, the fact is we have a very big hill to climb to meet our housing need, now and for the future.

Where can the new houses be built?

Can we really build all our housing needs on “brownfield” land?

The Local Plan estimates that our town centre and urban areas can only accommodate 2,742 new homes (i.e. only four years at 693). Other areas including inset villages and previously developed green belt only add another 2,090 (i.e. three years at 603).

So we need space for another 9,028 homes. Where would they be built on our 9% brownfield? If on commercial sites, where do these businesses relocate or leave our borough? What are the challenges for brownfield development – land contamination, underground utilities, infrastructure, concerns of local residents?

Where can we build the much needed housing other than on a small proportion of the 89% designated as green belt?

When will this happen?

Our Local Plan needs to have made serious progress towards being adopted by 31st March 2017. Otherwise, central government can intervene and take over the process so that our plan will no longer be really local.

How will new homes have to be delivered?

The borough council is one of few councils to keep its 5,000 council houses to provide social housing for the less advantaged. The council is now taking the lead on building new homes on council owned land . We recently built 65 new homes and have plans to build on other land we own in particular Guildford Park car park with 160 new homes (40% affordable) and a new car park – more housing and more parking.

Let’s leave out the politics and remain focused on solving our housing need.

Share This Post

Responses to Letter: Local Plan, Not Local Politics Please

  1. Peter Shaw Reply

    June 17, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    “Lets leave out the politics and remain focused on solving our housing need” – I totally agree with this statement.

    Let’s start by acknowledging the housing need figure that is presented as 693 new homes per year has not been properly scrutinized by the council or indeed the public.

    To do this the model that is used to calculate this figure needs to be released, something the council has authority to do and could pursue legally by enacting clauses it had put in place with the sub-contractors. Even Justin Gardner Consulting (the authors of the model behind the statistic) states:

    “Are the Government wanting us to plan for a significant over-supply of housing or to plan to meet the need for housing? If they are seeking to over-provide housing, then the LPEG approach is arguably okay (but does not reflect need); if the real aim is to meet need then a rethink of the proposed method is required.”

    Evidence from

    So if the authors themselves question the numbers that they have created by following the LPEG method, how can we the public trust this number to be correct for our own area?! A one size fits all methodology does not work when you take into account local factors. This is the issue with the SHMA and this Guildford Borough 693 number.

    Until the majority of councillors realise this and don’t just accept at face value that 693 is the right number (because they have been told it is right by the Executive) then politics will always have a part to play.

    Because unless this Tory administration starts to listen to reasoned voices (or even in this case their own consultants and sub-contractors), stand by their manifesto promises (and not just ignore them when convenient i.e. protect the green belt) then there will always be another political party wanting to step up and do the right thing.

  2. Dave Fassom Reply

    June 17, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    A few simple observations.

    First of all can someone please show me where the 13,860 homeless families are in the borough of Guildford?

    The latest estimate from the GBC’s own records suggest that there are 66 households currently in inappropriate housing.

    The council’s ‘consultants’ that Cllr Rooth refers to are, in fact, a business that includes consultancy to building firms and currently advises on numerous development opportunities for fat cat builders.

    To make matters worse, these ‘consultants’ refuse to share their calculations with anyone for scrutiny. Draw your own conclusions.

  3. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    June 17, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    Where does one start with this? I will kick it off with “Local Plan, not a developer led “trajectory” please”.

    I will take a couple of points:

    Cllr Rooth suggests in answering his question “Why does demand really exceed supply?

    “The answer is because our borough population has increased by around 750 each year since 2001, while, unfortunately, in the years 2006/15, only 250 new homes on average have been built annually. So home prices to buy and rent have gone through the roof.”

    Firstly, an increase in population does not need an exact same number of houses to be built. Households, on average, are made up of around 2.5 people.

    Cllr Rooth inccorectly suggest that there is a gap of 500 homes per year between supply and demand.

    If this difference carried on there would be a change in the household sizes.

    This figure has not changed since 2003, which it would have done if prices were driven by supply issues. This figure is similar to European countires.

    Secondly, it is the cheap supply of capital (cheap mortgages) that is fuelling the demand (not number of people but their ability to pay) driving prices up, not the lack of supply. If interests rates were higher, people would not be able to borrow the money to inflate the house prices irrespective of how many were available.

    According to the Mortgage Advice Bureau “Help to Buy” applicants are on average aged 31 vs the average first time buyer at 37.

    This scheme is, therefore, bringing in buyers of tomorrow into the market now. This is further changing the demand side to drive house prices up.

    Don’t believe me, read this.

    Building lots of houses is not going to solve affordability issues for the people with affordabilty issues – supply is not the issue.

    Poor economics and but spin from Guildford Borough I’m afraid.

  4. Sarah Hill Reply

    June 17, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    Cllr Rooth previously wrote about the urgent need for affordable housing and now asks us to leave out politics and remain focussed on solving our housing need.

    I struggle with this because this latest issuance of the local plan would seem to be all about politics and reacting to political pressure.

    The green belt sensitivity analysis was commissioned as a reaction to the Guildford Greenbelt Group’s pressure and the results of this study has directly affected delivery of the much needed affordable homes that Cllr Rooth is going on about.

    The last draft had many more smaller sites situated in sustainable locations such as Horn Hatch farm in Chilworth, Howard of Effingham site, Aldertons in Send Marsh, Tannery Lane in Send, these were removed as a direct result of local political pressure.

    Sadly for Cllr Rooth it was exactly these sites that were going to contribute quickly to his affordable targets.

    They were not as constrained by major A3 infrastructure issues and seemed immediately deliverable.

    Instead the council has decided to change their spatial strategy for primarily four large strategic sites (including the undeliverable Wisley) that will put the delivery of his housing and affordable delivery at the mercy of the house builders who will want to stagger their sites as demand dictates.

    The council have shot themselves in the foot with their latest political plan and should get little sympathy from readers.

  5. Ben Paton Reply

    June 18, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Cllr Rooth is responsible for housing at the Guildford Borough Council.

    He appears to be keen to be supported by impressive consultants and lots of data, so he has taken up GL Hearn and Justin Gardner’s reports very proudly. He loves to quote them with appropriate reverence and awe. He intones the magic number 693 with religious infatuation.

    Anyone who questions these consultants must be unfit for their office or uncommonly stupid. Not even the exceptionally clever civil servants who commissioned these reports are allowed to see the model on which the reports are based.

    How proudly and nobly our councillors strut their stuff. What a pity that the model is invisible and that their reports are naked.

    Perhaps some senior courtiers will be summoned by the emperor to lend their authority to these reports? Is Mr Hooper available?

  6. Valerie Thompson Reply

    June 19, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Part of the problem is GBC’s inability or unwillingness to insist that the University of Surrey builds the student accommodation, for which it was given green belt land, and permission to build on it. Far too many students are occupying properties which should be available for residential housing on a more-or-less permanent basis.

    The councillors have also gone along with their Executive’s refusal to show them, or the public, the research which has led to such an inflated number of houses being “needed” in the borough.

    Where have the promises to be “open and transparent” gone? In the dustbin, together with the Conservative’s promises to protect the green belt.

  7. Roland McKinney Reply

    June 19, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    In his letter, Cllr Rooth informs us that the population of Guildford increased by an average of 750 per year from 2001. I’m not sure that this is correct for the period after 2011, but, according to census data, this is correct between the years 2001 to 2011, as the data showed that the population of the borough increased by 7,482 people between these years.

    However, what Cllr Rooth failed to mention is that of this increase, 3,723 were full time students aged between 18 to 64. This was a period when the university was expanding and an increase in the number of students was understandable. So, in fact, students made up about 50% of this population increase.

    Census data also reveals that the average number of residents per household in the borough was 2.43, so on this basis the increase in the “permanent” resident population of Guildford (3,759 people) required 1,547 houses. If the average number of houses built were 250 per year as stated by Cllr Rooth, then in this 10 year period 2,500 would have been built – considerably more than needed for the growth in the number of “permanent” residents.

    So where exactly is Cllr Rooth’s evidence for a housing shortage, or that a supposed shortfall in supply has created a huge local increase in house prices and rents? I’d suggest his “evidence” does not withstand even the most cursory examination. Much like the housing number proposed for the borough.

    Consider this – based on 2.43 persons/household, the “permanent” population of the borough will increase (in each year to 2031) by an average of 1,684 people per year – or 4.5 times the rate seen between the years 2001 to 2011. Cllr Rooth neglected to point this out. I wonder why?

    The real reasons for increasing house prices are very complex, much more complex than a simple demand and supply balance. As for reasons why house prices have outstripped wages – even more complex, but in a nutshell, because our successive governments have not pursued policies that provide for an increase in investment that would drive the increase in productivity that is necessary for wages to increase.

    Declining real wages are a large part of the issue of high housing costs, but is a factor that our government would prefer us to ignore.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *