When you are a member of an opposition party, it is the easiest thing in the world to blast the Plymouth and South West Devon Local Plan, as Mark Lawrence did last week, or to vote against it and then disown responsibility when unallocated sites are forced on the area at appeal.
It is up to those of us in elected power to do the hard job of putting forward proposals that will both be right for the area and be found sound at examination by a government inspector.
Cornwall’s plan was held up for a considerable time because it did not make any allowance for second homes, so we have learnt from its painful experience. There is no question of West Devon ‘not allocating’ enough sites in its borough.
For the past decade, local authorities have had to rely on land being brought forward
by willing landowners and developers. If sites are not shown to be ready to be developed within a set timeframe, they cannot be allocated.
We, the three local authorities entering into the joint plan, have had to calculate an ‘objectively assessed housing number’, known as the OAN. This has to be done by each local authority because this is how the government statistics are set out; but there is only one joint OAN for a plan, so ours is one for the three authorities of Plymouth City, the South Hams and West Devon combined. It is up to the strategy of the plan to allocate sites as fit best.
It has been good practice ever since the recession to take an average of 10 years’ past housing formation figures when assessing future need to iron out spikes and dips, so yes, the figure is slightly higher than the latest 2014 figures. We also have to allow for a ‘lapse rate’ – that is, planning permissions granted, which for one reason or another are not built out.
The market uplift allowance is certainly not a tool reserved just for the Home Counties – the ratio of house prices to incomes is as distorted here as anywhere in the country.
Everyone seems to resent new houses, but everyone wants ones that their children can afford. Given that the plan covers 20 years, the numbers pro rata are certainly no more than the development that has taken place averaged out over the past 50 years in the area, and likely a good deal less.
You can play with statistics how you like, and call it being swamped if you will, but most villages are bringing forward their own neighbourhood plans to shape their development over the plan period.
I have fought very hard for these neighbourhood plans to have autonomy. There are no site allocations at all in settlements any smaller than ‘local centres’ in the South Hams, leaving local people absolutely in charge of how development happens in their villages. There is strong encouragement in the policies for as many of these homes as possible to be affordable houses for local people.
We believe that, far from having fatal defects, as Mark Lawrence would argue, the plan will be found sound and will provide both the incentive for a suitable amount of housing and employment opportunities, which are needed up to 2034, with as much provision for affordable housing as is reasonably possible, along with the strengthened protection we need for our wonderful countryside, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the undeveloped coast and the heritage assets we all treasure.
Cllr Judy Pearce
Salcombe and Thurlestone ward
South Hams District Council