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Letter: The Local Plan Does Not Address Guildford’s Real Housing Problem

Published on: 13 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 14 Apr, 2019

From Ben Paton

GGG candidate for Effingham in the forthcoming borough election.

In response to: Adoption of the Local Plan is Important to Those Who Need Housing

This is an “ends justify the means” argument. If the objective is sufficiently important then any means are justified. So if there’s a housing “crisis” then even an unsustainable Local Plan should be swallowed whole without demur.

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the population of the Borough of Guildford is c. 150,000. The number of households is 56,000. The average number of people per household is some 2.67. This average demonstrates that there is not a generalised shortage of housing in the Borough.

But there is a real shortage of social housing. This shortage is what matters to the three thousand or so people on Guildford’s social housing waiting list. The causes of this shortage are long-standing central government policies. This problem is not solved by this Local Plan.

Another real problem in the housing market is the very high price of houses. This will not be solved by this Local Plan either. The government planning inspector proclaimed that it is government policy to reduce house prices by ensuring that large numbers of houses are built all around London.

But there is no credible evidence that the rate of new housebuilding has a marked or reliable effect on the price of the total stock of housing. Nevertheless, to test this theory, residents are being treated as guinea pigs in a central government economic experiment.

The proposed Local Plan ought to be justified on its merits rather than on the basis of a specious interpretation of the real problems in the housing market.

Spain and Ireland built more houses in the past thirty or forty years than in their entire previous history. It has not made them wealthier. In Ireland, the stock of houses doubled between 1985 and 2016 but the population grew only 40%. It ended with a crash and large numbers of empty houses.

The Local Plan is about more than just the number of houses. The type and the location of houses determine how sustainable they will be. Ribbon development along the A3 does not meet the sustainability requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework.

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