Quack, quack, quack

Like little ducks lined up all in a row, Guildford Borough Councillors voted for their own motion that rejected the “Excess Housing” e-petition debated in the council chamber in front of the full council last Tuesday 8 July 2014.  No Councillor voted against and only five abstentions. Not that you would expect anything else.  The scene had already been set on 19 June when the same Councillors voted to accept the final draft Local Plan as presented, without change to the excessive annual house building target of 652 per year over its 15 year lifetime, and so moved it into the second round of consultation.

The e-petition requested “We, the undersigned, petition Guildford Borough Council to reject their current aggressive pro-development pro-building strategy. The current strategy would mean building more housing than we need (and also more commercial buildings than we need) because of an incorrect perception that economic growth can only come from building. This strategy is unsustainable and must be rejected.” Continue reading

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Painting and decorating in the borough

It’s been a while since we did a major painting and decorating job on the house, in fact it was just before our son was born, so approaching a decade.  We wanted to have a fresh start for our new family member.  To keep things neutral, even-handed, we chose Old English White for the walls and generic eggshell white for the woodwork. With colours like that and a young son careering round the place as he grows up, scuffing the paintwork, things have become a little jaded recently and maybe could do with some attention, even though budgets are tighter than they used to be.  When I was younger than my son is now, back in the 1950’s, my dad used to talk about how few wall colours were available before WW2 if you didn’t want to spend lots of money on covering over the cracks with wallpaper.  Funny how things like this set your mind running. Continue reading

Housing Numbers

Very thorough analysis that gives insight into why there is a myriad of different potential targets. Although originally posted in October 2013 and therefore reflective of the 2009 SHMA that was available to the 2013 Guildford draft Local Plan, it raises serious questions that the new SHMA (December 2013) has failed to address.

Guildford Plan

Guildford Borough Council’s paper “How many new homes?” sets out to provide a range of different approaches to calculating housing numbers between 2011 and 2031.  The resulting picture is a potentially confusing one with estimates of NEED ranging from 181 homes per year to 1,066 new households per year.  This seems to be akin to a game of ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ – a blindfold stab in the dark.

Before going on to the paper itself, it might be helpful to review the requirement placed on us by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2012.

NPPF (Section 6) Delivering a wide choice of high quality homes

47. To boost significantly the supply of housing, local planning authorities should:

  • use their evidence base to ensure that their Local Plan meets the full, objectively assessed needs for market and affordable housing in the housing market area, as…

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It’s all about money

Guildford Borough Council [GBC] and Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership [LEP] have a strongly intertwined relationship, with a former leader of Guildford Borough Council and a leading figure from University of Surrey sitting on it’s board.  The council and the LEP have together created a shared Strategic Economic Plan [SEP] that is seeking funding from the EU (initially £38.54 million) and UK government sources (£70.00 million from the Local Growth Fund for housing alone) and further funding steams such as the New Homes Bonus (GBC received £1.5 million New Homes Bonus 2012/2013) plus others from the Homes & Communities Agency ).  The funding streams are contingent on a growth strategy, stimulating employment and thereby driving local housing demand and potentially stimulating new house building. Continue reading

New SHMA no better than wetting a finger and sticking it in the air

So much for “objectivity”.

The more I sat there and listened to the director of the GL Hearn planning consultancy trying to explain the numbers, the more I realised what a cosy little world exists between these highly rewarded professionals and the local planning authority [LPA] apparatchiks.  He claimed he had already appeared at, at least, four PINS public enquiries into submitted Local Plans in the last few months, so knew exactly what he was talking about.  However, when challenged on simple facts of the SHMA Guidance issued in 2007 concerning the types of stakeholders with which he was required to engage to inform his company’s consideration of the “objectively assessed” number of houses, he singularly failed. Continue reading

What is a SHMA?

If you type “what is a SHMA?” into popular Internet search engines, among other things a list of hundreds of local authority web pages will be presented to you, all describing the role that a Strategic Housing Market Assessment study [SHMA] is playing in helping them determine the number of houses they will need to plan to build over the forthcoming years of their local plan, how they have gone about it and what it means for their community. Continue reading