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COUNCILS ASK: WHERE DO WE PUT 4.4 MILLION HOMES?

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The Times (p40) carries a feature on the repercussions for local authorities of the government's latest projections...
The Times (p40) carries a feature on the repercussions for local authorities of the government's latest projections that 4.4 million new households have to be accommodated by 2016. This is 20 per cent up on the last figures, which went up to 2011. Furthermore, deputy prime minister John Prescott is believed to recognise that the strategic planning process is taking so long that it is inhibiting housing growth. But how councils can streamline the process without taking out the democratic aspect is a question that has to be answered. Meanwhile, planners are still acting on the lower figures, but the new figures will start being fed into regional guidance next year.

Many local authorities, according to the Times, are struggling to earmark enough sites for the current quotas. Essex CC has had to find room in its structure plan for 107,000 homes, but has so far only identified 86,000 sites. The Times quotes Patrick Amos, the Structure Plan team leader: 'We are proposing that most of the extra 21,000 sites should be identified in a strategic development corridor between Chelsmford and Colchester. The districts are concerned are very unhappy and are lobbying the council to put the houses elsewhere.'

The Times also cites a proposal from Stroud DC in Gloucestershire for a development of 1,500 new homes in Painswick Valley. It has met with extreme opposition from locals as the valley forms part of an area of natural beauty. The council argues that these constraints mean it should have to provide 8,900 homes by 2011, not 11,200. The council leader is quoted: 'We have disputed the figures. We are committed to involving the whole community because this is a district-wide problem.'

The Times points out that Gloucestershire is a good example of the complexities of strategic planning. The council has made great efforts to take its plans to the people. Paul Fountain, Gloucestershire CC's head of strategic and local planning, is quoted: 'We had a round of public meetings, which were very well attended and we got from certain parts of the county a very hostile reaction.' It has since reviewed its plans and has set up working parties in partnership with local councils.

Finally, The Times spotlights Birmingham City Council. Director of housing Graham Farrant is quoted: 'We think that only about 40 per cent of the requirements for Birmingham can be met in the city and the rest will have to go outside. We did a study that showed, for example, that single elderly people often live in large houses on their own. Our research found that they would prefer a small bungalow, which would free up a family house. But the elderly would not move three miles from where they were if it took them away from their families.'
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