Fringe Box



Letter: I Have a Horrible Suspicion About the Conservative Handling of Housing Numbers

Published on: 3 Oct, 2018
Updated on: 3 Oct, 2018

From Liz Hogger

Lib Dem borough councillor for Effingham and Lib Dem spokesperson on planning

In response to: The Dragon Says: So the Housing Numbers Were Wrong

There is a problem of definition when it comes to housing numbers. What do we mean by ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when applied to housing need projections?

The “Ministry of Truth”, aka the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, has defined housing need as the figure calculated in accordance with government diktat.

In the early days of GBC’s Local Plan preparation, that meant assessing need using one of the approved consultancies with their secretive algorithms, in our case GL Hearn. Councils departed from this at their peril, with the threat of the Planning Inspectorate declaring their Local Plans unsound, so GBC went along with it.

Then the government decided they needed to simplify the algorithm, and published their “standard method” for housing need assessment. You can find this at:

That method produced a higher figure for Guildford than the GL Hearn assessment, so GBC rushed ahead using the GL Hearn figure for fear of something worse. I confess, I reluctantly voted for the submission Local Plan on this basis, as the least worse option.

Now, using the new ONS statistics in the standard method produces a much more reasonable housing need figure for Guildford – 431 dwellings per annum instead of the previous 789 figure. I congratulate Guildford Residents Association in particular for their persistence in questioning the previous figure. They got it more right than anyone.

So what will the Conservative Government do? I would hope they would say, “Three cheers, we can honour our commitment to protect the green belt as we don’t need so much development in Guildford, after all.”

The borough council could say “In our Local Plan, the former Wisley Airfield new town, with its hugely damaging effect on the local environment, can be deleted and we’ll look again at the other proposed strategic green belt sites including Blackwell Farm, Gosden Hill, and the other smaller sites causing concern across the borough.”

But wait. According to the authoritative Planning Resource website, the Conservative housing minister Kit Malthouse has made a declaration at the Conservative party conference.

He said, “We are hoping to make a rapid announcement about that because [councils] are doing the maths and saying, ‘I’m off the hook.’ But my message [to local authorities] is: don’t take your foot off the accelerator.”

I have a horrible suspicion the Conservative Government will now change the “standard method” to ensure it comes up with the answer they first thought of, and Guildford will again be expected to sacrifice both green belt and our urban environment on the altar of unrealistic housing targets, with little regard to whether or not real families will be able to afford that housing.

This dishonest mess from the Tory Government is why Liberal Democrats councillors want to call a halt to the Local Plan process so that we can reconsider the housing target and the site allocations in the light of the new figures. Perhaps the Local Plan Inspector will agree and allow us to reduce our housing target, but I am not holding my breath.

This whole Tory planning fiasco is indicative of central government contempt for local opinion and local democracy. The Dragon says we get the government we deserve. Under the deeply flawed first-past-the-post electoral system, I don’t think we do. I certainly think the people of Guildford borough deserve better than this.

Share This Post

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 *