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Letter: It Is Up To The Rest of Us to Properly Scrutinise the Housing Number

Published on: 2 Apr, 2016
Updated on: 2 Apr, 2016

GL Hearn SHMA Oct 2015From Roland McKinney

I totally agree with Jim Allen’s comment in his letter: There Will Be No Faith In SHMA Figures Until Calculation Method Is Shown.

I have form on this topic.  At the scrutiny committee meeting in question I begged for its members to do their job and scrutinise the report from GL Hearn.  A majority chose not to do so.

To reiterate what has been said elsewhere, the housing need for Guildford has been assessed at 693 dwellings per year, for the next 15 years.  This is made up from 517 from population projections based on ONS statistics, 120 for employment growth, 31 to promote housing affordability and 25 for students.  So let’s look at these components of the 693.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) are very clear in that they make projections into the future, based on the average of five years of data.

ONS freely admit that this approach has shortcomings, and stress that before these projections are turned into predictions their basic statistics should be reviewed in detail, with changes made based on whatever factors the reviewer deems important.

So let’s have a look to see if there is evidence that GL Hearn did this.

In Guildford’s case, population projections suggest that the increase in population will be due entirely to international migration.  They also estimate that 57% of this international migration will be due to international students coming to Guildford to study.

In very round numbers, this means that the ONS are suggesting that Guildford’s population will increase by more than 13,000 students over the next 15 years.  Is there anyone out there who thinks this is likely?

What impact would this have on young people from the area looking for somewhere to live?  Is it really the job of GBC to accommodate these students?  Surely this is what the university, and other colleges, should do?  After all, the university has planning permission for a large extension in student accommodation, which they have yet to fulfil.

Should this not have been factored in?  These ONS statistics suggest that of the 517 dwellings/year proposed for population increase, 295 would be to accommodate international students – plus of course the extra 25 added in by GL Hearn; so out of 693 dwellings/year, 320/year would be for students.

There are many factors that suggest this increase is improbable – for starters, no further education establishment has announced expansion plans on this scale.  Even if they had – how likely would it be to happen?

Further education has entered the distant learning era, which is likely to have a massive impact over the coming years. In addition, further education in the UK is costly, and much lower cost education can be had in other EU countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands.

These now offer over 2,000 courses wholly in English, and German universities are storming up the international league tables for universities.

A fairly recent trend is the increase in death rates, not reflected in the ONS statistics used for their projections – but a trend that has been evident now for three years – but GL Hearn ignored it because it was not in the ONS statistics.

Does any of this suggest that GL Hearn (or GBC) has considered for a moment the underlying trends in population numbers?

Consider briefly 31 dwellings to promote affordability. I’ve tried to think of an analogy fit to print, but can do no better than throwing 31 pebbles per year onto the beach at Beachy Head, and expecting this to have an impact on the height of the beach. It is simply beyond absurd.

Now, consider 120 dwellings/year to promote development. Guildford suffers from regular traffic paralysis. All surveys of local employers carried out by GBC show this is at the forefront of their thoughts. Why would employers consider expansion or coming to Guildford when they know traffic paralysis already exists and that it will only get worse, much worse, if all these dwellings are built?

It makes any commercial development, especially within high value added segments, less likely to come to Guildford, as these are the people who most value their time, and do not want to spend it stuck in traffic jams in and around Guildford.

So, in conclusion, does it appear that GL Hearn have done what the ONS suggest is necessary to change projection into prediction?  The answer has to be a resounding no.  But the scrutiny committee voted against doing their job, to scrutinise these numbers, so it appears it is up to this publication and its correspondents to do their job for them.

These housing numbers do not stack up, there is no solid foundation to them. Do not accept them, for to do so will destroy what is best about this borough.

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Responses to Letter: It Is Up To The Rest of Us to Properly Scrutinise the Housing Number

  1. Valerie Thompson Reply

    April 5, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Why does GBC not force the University of Surrey to build the accommodation units, for which it has permission, and land, given some years ago? GBC should refuse to build any houses for students until the university fulfills its obligations. There should also be the intention to return to the community those properties occupied by students, which would be better used for people needing affordable housing.

    As for the Scrutiny Committee, I am appalled that they voted not to do their jobs and scrutinise the Hearn report. What do they think they are there for?

    Guildford will be overwhelmed with new businesses and industry, new houses and numerous vehicles for all these buildings, which we understand are to be encouraged by GBC. Why are they determined to change Guildford from a pleasant county town into a new Basingstoke? Is it because they will feel important?

    Their legacy will be a gridlocked town, full of polluting cars and lorries, many unsuccessful shops, because people from around the county will stop wanting to come to a noisy, ugly town, and a lost opportunity to safeguard and enhance Guildford’s historic appeal.

    Well done GBC and the Scrutiny Committee!

  2. F M Robertson Reply

    April 5, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    As a resident of Normandy, which is still due to have 1,100 houses thrust upon its serene green fields and ancient woodland thanks to the Local Plan (dump them on Normandy, one of the poorer villages with not so many wealthy folk there to contest such ruination), I entirely agree that the utterly misnamed Scrutiny Committee are derelict in their duty.

    We should definitely know the logic behind the numbers and contest that logic before the beautiful countryside surrounding Guildford is lost forever.

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