Fringe Box



Revised Population Forecast Leads to Calls for Review of Local Plan Housing Numbers

Published on: 28 Sep, 2018
Updated on: 29 Sep, 2018

Extract from a map published on the Barton Mills website.

A revised forecast for Guildford’s population growth, issued by the Office of National Statistics, has called into question, once again, the housing target figures contained in Guildford’s Local Plan.

Barton Willmore, who describe themselves as the “UK’s leading independent planning and design consultancy” has stated in an article Housing Need Will Fall in Light of New Projections.

They say: “Lower projected household growth is a pattern seen across all regions… The most notable difference is within London, where the 2016-based household projections project 39% fewer households than the previous series.

The consultancy calculates that the housing figure for Guildford under the “new standard method” for assessing housing need would decrease from 789 to 431, a 45% reduction.

Cllr Paul Spooner

But Council Leader Paul Spooner, who is also the lead councillor for partnerships, planning and regeneration, pointed out: “It is important to be aware that the figures quoted from Barton Willmore reflect the application of the government’s new standard method in calculating household need. Under the transitional provisions of the NPPF, the new standard method does not apply to the examination of the Guildford Local Plan.”

The method for calculating Guildford’s housing need in a report entitles “Objectively Assessed Need”, or OAN, has proved controversial. Consultants hired to produce the report required commercial confidentiality for their methods and algorithms. This meant that the way the figures were produced was not transparent.

Several organisations challenged the figures, including the Guildford Residents’ Association (GRA) and The Guildford Society (GSoc). Both claimed that the inclusion of inaccurate student population forecasts had inflated the figure for the required number of houses. Today the chairman of The Guildford Society has said: “It is hard to see how this Local Plan can stand up to these new figures.”

Cllr Spooner said that the council was continuing to review the situation: “The council is aware of ONS’ release of their new household projection figures, including for Guildford. Indeed, the prospect of the household projection figures reducing from that previously forecast had already been anticipated in the council’s submissions to the inspector. However, now that the latest figures are available we will be considering their potential ramifications for our position on housing need, and responding to the Inspector on this issue in due course.

“The proposed main modifications to the Submission Local Plan are currently out for consultation until noon on 23 October 2018. The housing requirement for Guildford reflected in Policy S2 is included in these modifications. The appropriate channel for anyone wishing to comment on this matter would be through the consultation process. On completion of the consultation, the inspector will consider all duly made representations.

“Due to the consultation being in progress, I am unable to comment further around any potential modifications to the Local Plan”.

Julian Lyon

Julian Lyon, chairman of The Guildford Society said: “It is hard to see how any local authority can plan for “need” when numbers are so variable and when consultants like GL Hearn [who produced Guildford’s OAN] have ignored requests to ‘show your workings’ so we can properly identify any flaws or differences of assumptions behind the analysis of the data available at the time.

“As a result of the population analysis GSoc did for its 2014 response to the Local Plan consultation, and with the help of Rt. Hon. Anne Milton MP, the director general of ONS conceded then that there were flaws in their calculations but went nowhere near far enough in their next adjustment.

“We have explained in our paper why we think the government’s statisticians are working from flawed data in university towns, and we, along with Guildford Residents Associations (GRA) who have done (and commissioned) more work on this matter, have continuously been vindicated by the reductions in official population forecasts and statements of need.

“It is hard to see how this Local Plan can stand up to these new figures. The results of sequential tests need to be reviewed to establish where development may not now be required, having particular regard to the options analysis in the Sustainability Appraisal.

“There is always a second edge to the sword, however, and that is that we will be further from being able to adopt suitable long-term infrastructure projects as a result of reductions in housing need, and the Guildford Society remains deeply concerned at the inadequacy of so much of the Guildford town and borough infrastructure, including transport, traffic, education, health, utilities and air quality, which must still be addressed.”

Bill Stokoe said from the Guildford Vision Group’s perspective the main concern: “… is the location of housing. A lower number does not diminish the need to develop town centre brownfield sites first. The council’s plan could do much, much better in that regard and reduce development of green belt sites.”

Amanda Mullarkey

Amanda Mullarkey, chair of the Guildford Residents’ Association added: “At the recent Guildford Local Plan examination hearings, the inspector was clear about three things:

  • he would use the most up to date figures to decide the number of homes required;
  • his proposed housing figures were provisional until the release of updated figures by the ONS which were expected to correct for some of the past errors in method;
  • there would be another session of the examination to look at the new housing forecasts if required.

“Since the examination hearings, there have been two sets of data from the ONS suggesting population growth in Guildford, a crucial factor in estimating housing need, has been overestimated.

“GRA believes there is now an overwhelming case for re-opening the examination to take account of the latest official household figures.  We trust that the inspector will do this to enable a fair process and to make sure the Local Plan is sound.

“We encourage residents to respond to the Inspector’s consultation which runs until 23 October, asking him to hold one more session to ensure he can take appropriate account of the implications of the two new sets of ONS information before deciding on our housing need figure.

“The changes in the figures are not random. They are the result of corrections to systematic errors in the way household growth has been estimated in Guildford.  The previous method overestimated need by under-recording students leaving at the end of their studies.  The ONS has agreed with the analysis undertaken by GRA’s expert, Neil MacDonald, which identified how student figures were distorting and exaggerating overall need.

“Since the examination, Neil MacDonald [independent expert commissioned by GRA – not a GRA member as previously stated], as invited by the inspector, has analysed the 28 June ONS data jointly with GL Hearn. Neil has shown that the inspector’s very ambitious growth for Guildford’s economy can be achieved with about 460 homes a year.

“Neil McDonald was also able to identify why GL Hearn comes up with a much higher housing figure of 630 homes a year.  It appears that they:

  • add homes for students even though they agree they are already probably allowed for in the figures;
  • do not assume more people work more if there is high economic growth, which means they assume more workers have to be brought in; and
  • make a staggering 47% overprovision in the hope this will bring down house prices, which is disproportionate compared with the uplift elsewhere.

“Once Neil MacDonald has analysed the September ONS data, we will share his findings with residents. It appears that the consistent case GRA and others have made, that Guildford’s housing need is overstated, is well founded. We want to ensure our case continues to be authoritative and well founded.”

Susan Parker, leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group, which has campaigned against the development of green belt land, said: “Housing projections have fallen dramatically and that fall should be reflected in Guildford’s housing targets. This new information was not reflected in any draft of our Local Plan.

“Of course it is appropriate, if not politically expedient, to discuss this now. Everyone should include this key fact in their comments to the inspector.

“We should amend our housing target to reflect new information, and this should result in a radical reduction of projected use of green belt and countryside land.”

Brian Creese, speaking on behalf of Guildford Labour commented: “We need no outside experts to tell us that we have a long waiting list for houses, that the cost of renting is putting an enormous strain on working families in Guildford and owning a house here, without support from wealthy parents, is a pipe dream for most young people.

“There is a demonstrable under-supply of good quality affordable housing in Guildford and only the Labour Party have the policies to tackle it. As Howard Smith, our Parliamentary Spokesperson says: ‘Adjusting these figures does not put roofs over heads and this should be our priority’.”

Cllr Tony Rooth

Newly Independent Tony Rooth, borough councillor for Pilgrims, added: “The much-reduced figures don’t apparently apply to the draft Guildford Local Plan, according to Cllr Spooner. However, Guildford’s new estimated housing need figure of 431 appears based on more recent 2016 statistics than 781 in the draft Local Plan.

“Guildford needs more smaller, affordable homes but doesn’t logic say the planning inspector should take account of such a large reduction in deciding Guildford’s future especially the preservation of our green belt?

The revised figures for Woking and Waverley according to the Barton Mills website

“All our neighbouring boroughs have substantial falls in numbers including Woking (409 to 263) [and Waverley from 538 to 390] so do they still have an “unmet need” to pass onto Guildford when, in Woking, skyscrapers continue to rise whilst housing need figures fall?

“Figures raise more questions than words!”

See also: Lib Dem response in letterIt Is Time to Halt and Reconsider the Local Plan

Share This Post

Responses to Revised Population Forecast Leads to Calls for Review of Local Plan Housing Numbers

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    September 28, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    Weasel words, just as we’ve come to expect from Cllr Spooner.

    The Executive have known for at least four years that the OAN is flawed, as demonstrated by Cllr Reeve, which led to his Stalinist show trial.

    However, this Executive continues to be hell-bent on catering to the wants of the developers, rather than the needs of residents.

    We deserve to be told why.

  2. Neil Langridge Reply

    September 29, 2018 at 11:14 am

    More evidence that GBC’s continually rejected and disastrous Local Plan is based on an outdated, retail obsessed, green belt destruction and “growth” that serves business and fails people and quality of life.

    Acknowledging the numbers but rejecting them as not applicable is astonishing – but entirely predictable.

  3. Jeff Hills Reply

    September 29, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    Surely with all the new student accommodation being built in the town, the university will not need to build so much on the green belt and build more accommodation in the university grounds. That would save the council spending even more of our money on the university.

  4. Jim Allen Reply

    September 29, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    I believe the council leader is misdirecting himself. The new 2018 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) applies as of the date of publication and is not a menu of options. His staff’s amendments are based on the new NPPF thus acknowledging the Local Plan must be 2018 based not 2012. My personal submission based on “what homes where” was very close to the 431 number.

    It is time to remove at least one green belt site from the plan. No exceptional circumstances currently exist for any to remain. As Gosden Hill has the most damaging effect to local residents which suffers serious traffic problems and pollution requiring major replacement of sewers this should be removed from the Local Plan immediately.

    Perhaps the Slyfield Area Regeneration Project (SARP) should also be reconsidered.

  5. John Fox Reply

    September 30, 2018 at 7:31 am

    If only acronyms could be turned into affordable housing.

  6. K White Reply

    September 30, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Why is student accommodation included at all? The University of Surrey should not be permitted to continually increase student numbers at a vastly greater rate than local overall population growth without providing the necessary on-campus accommodation.

    The town needs housing for its permanent residents and proposed town centre developments, such as the Casino site, should provide such housing, not student accommodation.

  7. Linda Cooper Reply

    October 5, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    Cap buy to let and make homes for sale properly affordable for the majority of young people who work hard but are unable to save ridiculous amounts of money for mortgage deposits because all of their earnings have to go to private landlords!

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 *