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Rumbling Tory Rebellion Causes Housing Rethink on Threatened South East

Published on: 17 Nov, 2020
Updated on: 21 Nov, 2020

By Martin Giles

Details of Westminster rethinking on the controversial new housing algorithm are being “eagerly awaited”, said a leading member of the borough council.

The change of tack on the formula that produces local housing targets was caused by the threat of major rebellion by Conservative MPs, some worried about party popularity in their heartland South East, others in the Midlands and the North demanding a housing increase to “level up”.

At present, many homes needed to meet the government’s annual 330,000 build target are set in the Home Counties, including Surrey.

The criticised formula

But a new policy is said to be under discussion to “rebalance” the formula and relieve pressure on green belt and rural development by allocating more houses within urban areas.

Some say the increase in working from home caused by pandemic restrictions is likely to free former urban office space for development.

Lord Barwell

A leading critic of the existing formula is former prime minister Theresa May, the Tory MP for Maidenhead. In September, her former chief of staff Lord Barwell said: “If you follow the [existing] model, you are going to very heavily concentrate housing provision in London and the ring of local authorities immediately around London.

“Theresa’s view was, ‘Hang on, my economic policy is all about trying to even up growth in this country, and provide better economic opportunities in the Midlands and the North, and surely housing policy should make a contribution to that?’”

Unless the formula is changed, the Local Government Association has said growth will tend to be focused in rural rather than urban locations, with average growth of 59% in rural councils, compared with a 20% increase in major urban areas.

Guildford borough was 89 per cent green belt until the Local Plan was adopted in 2019.

Cllr Jan Harwood.

Cllr Jan Harwood (Lib Dem, Merrow), lead councillor for Climate Change, said: “No details have been published about what changes the government are planning. Without this, we can’t say what the implications might be for Guildford.

“We eagerly await more information on this and the other issues raised in their recent consultation.”

Cllr Harwood spoke on behalf of fellow Executive member Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas), who leads on Housing.

Guildford’s Conservative MP, Angela Richardson, was invited to comment.

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Responses to Rumbling Tory Rebellion Causes Housing Rethink on Threatened South East

  1. Ian Campbell Reply

    November 17, 2020 at 6:21 pm

    The formula reflects the lack of new homes in the areas around London. If it is altered so fewer houses are built our children will carry more debt, and have less spendable income. Is this fair?

    The real issue is not challenging the need for these houses. Instead, it is where do they go? Unfortunately, the Local Plan leaves this decision, through the call for sites, with landowners and developers. This is an extraordinary way to plan the future. Surely this key decision ought to be made by the council? Then the houses will be directed to sustainable locations.

    • John Perkins Reply

      November 19, 2020 at 9:53 am

      Can Ian Campbell explain how fewer houses means the following generation will “carry more debt, and have less spendable income”?

      The formula does not reflect an actual lack of new homes, only a calculated one.

      The Local Plan was the decision of the council, not developers and certainly not local residents. GBC chose to include sites which were unsustainable.

  2. Maurice Bethell Reply

    November 18, 2020 at 5:41 pm

    The government certainly does need to re-evaluate its proposal, otherwise it will be doing the Labour Party’s work as promised by former Labour MP for Hull, John Prescott. He said he would concrete over the whole of the South East Home Counties.

    The government must relocate many of the Civil Service jobs to the Midlands and the North of England in order to fulfil its promise of rebalancing th equation between the South of England and the rest of the country.

    This would hopefully also release some of the pressure to build more and more tower block offices in London and ultimately ease the housing and traffic congestion.

    For too many decades the areas outside of the “southern bubble” have been treated as the poor relations. Please keep your promises Mr Johnson.

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