Across the Country and the Shropshire in particular, people are crying out for more affordable homes, to buy and rent. In Shropshire, the average house price is £220,352 with the average wage standing at £24,481. The average house is now 11 times the average wage. Putting most house beyond the reach of many ordinary hard-working people, particularly first time buyers. People who are battling every day with the rising cost of living whilst trying to save for a 20% deposit. They are pushed into private rental properties, which in turn inflates rents. This is exacerbated by an undersupply of housing and further compounded by those houses being purchased by speculators and investors. Similarly, those approaching retirement who want to downsize also face a lack of supply, again inflating prices.
Conservatives nationally and locally continue the same broad policies which have failed to deliver enough housing in the right places. Policies where supply is lead by developers who have a vested interest in limiting supply to keep prices high. Policies which continually fail to deliver enough houses to rent, part-rent or to buy for all income ranges. Without robust policies, we won’t build enough of the right homes in the right places and stop housing being built in the wrong places. Just building more houses is not the correct solution. We have to build more as a country and make sure they genuinely fit the needs of people and communities and not just the needs of a select few. Read more about housing supply in England and about the Liberal Democrats answers to the national problem.
On Tuesday this week Shropshire Council’s Cabinet met to consider, amongst other things:
- Meeting Housing Need in Shropshire
Shropshire Council building council houses. Something I have long supported for a long time (see: Right to Buy not sustainable shock… not) and the Liberal Democrats have been calling for nationally. I would support Shropshire Council Building new Council Houses.
- Consultation on Preferred Sites for the Shropshire Local Plan Review
Where to build houses for the new plan period 2016 to 2036
- Community Infrastructure Levy [CIL] Regulation 123 List
The list of infrastructure projects to be paid for by CIL
As a Civil Engineering Surveyor, who works for a Planning Consultancy and who is a Trustee of an Almshouse Charity delivering low-cost homes to people on low incomes, I know the proposed policy changes still fall far too short of what is needed. I.e., providing enough genuinely affordable homes for people, that allow people to stay in the communities that they were born in and to sustain local services. Letting developers build 4 & 5-bed executive homes everywhere is not sustainable nor what people need.
Despite being told everywhere that the plans are ‘modest’ Shropshire Council have opted for the ‘High’ housing growth option of 28,750 dwellings. CPRE Shropshire has said that the actual housing need for Shropshire is 18,000 houses The cabinet has approved growth higher than even the Government have suggested of 25,400 dwellings. You can also read the Shropshire Star’s report on the Conservative Council’s plans. Once again it leaves me with the impression that the growth plans are all about competing with Telford and using housing growth to fix their own budget problems rather than what is actually needed.
Why is this significant for West Felton?
For West Felton, in particular, the preferred sites report was very significant. West Felton has been slated to have 130 new houses over the plan period. West Felton parish had 600 households in 2011 whilst West Felton village itself had 290 households in 2011. The new housing represents a 19% increase for the parish and a whopping 45% increase for the main part of the village.
Also back in 2011, the then Parish Council Chairman was in the Shropshire star in a Call for no more homes in West Felton village. Saying: “We want to be regarded as a rural village where no new building takes place. We feel we have had more than our fair share. The infrastructure couldn’t cope with much more.”
As I have previously pointed out (See: Local Plan partial review) West Felton has had new housing development inflicted upon it, that the parish decided they didn’t want. In the Parish Plan 2013-14 (See Parish Plan summary here) after a comprehensive and extensive survey of residents, it was adopted that the parish should be ‘Open Countryside‘ a position supported by 89% of residents in the survey. Of the remainder ‘a considerable majority’ supported the Parish becoming a ‘Community Cluster‘ rather than becoming a ‘Community Hub‘. (See definitions below.)
Fast forward 7 years and the same person who called for ‘no more homes’ in the Shropshire Star was the main proponent of the parish becoming a ‘Community Hub‘ which has lead to the latest site for 60 houses being added to the village plan. How times have changed.
West Felton’s status has now changed from being ‘Open Countryside‘ to become a ‘Community Hub‘ – far removed from what the parish decided only 4 years ago! Until such time that I see evidence that the parish supports the move and the expansion of the village I remain opposed to it.
At the Parish Council in December last year, after a panel had worked on the response for a month, the council submitted a response to Shirhall’s consultation on the preferred scale and of distribution of settlement. The response was to endorse Shirehall’s approach. An approach that included West Felton becoming a Community Hub – the least popular option in the survey 5 years ago! A few councillors, myself included, expressed our concern that this would set a dangerous precedent and would lead to more houses being built in the parish.
Nearly a year later, at the Parish Council’s September meeting, the council adopted their preferred site for the Shropshire Council to adopt into the plan. As I remained opposed to the Parish becoming a Community Hub I voted against this and asked for my vote to be recorded in the minutes.
Why is this significant for Whittington?
Whittington parish has been slated to have 360 new houses over the plan period. Whittington itself with 200 houses and 160 houses in Park Hall. Whittington parish had 1,071 households in 2011 whilst Whittington village itself had 642 households in 2011. The new housing represents a 34% increase for the parish and a more modest 25% increase for the village itself.
Like West Felton, the houses that will be built in Whittington parish won’t be of the right mix. There won’t be enough affordable home for local people to stay where they were born. If younger people are forced out of for price reasons then the population continues to age and all services become unsustainable for everybody.
Shropshire Council is supporting the vision of Oswestry Civic Society 2050 campaign and has opted to create a new Garden Village in Park Hall.
Is this going to lead to urban sprawl and the villages of Park Hall, Gobowen, Middleton, Whittington being subsumed into Oswestry? I believe there must now be quite a high risk that this will happen in the longer-term. Is that desirable? The jury is still out but I will be surveying residents on the plans soon.
Please participate in the consultations
On Tuesday this week, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet resolved to adopt the proposals and put them out for consultation. I will be doing a housing survey of my own soon. West Felton Parish Council and Shropshire Council will be conducting a housing needs survey in the New Year. I will post more details about that nearer the time but I would again urge everybody to participate. Please have your say.
The preferred sites for consultation document – including West Felton
The Consultation will run from Thursday 29 November 2018 until Thursday 8th February 2019. https://shropshire.gov.uk/get-involved/local-plan-review-preferred-sites-consultation/
Community Infrastructure Levy(CIL) is a planning charge, introduced by the Planning Act 2008 came into force in 2010. CIL is a tool for local authorities in England and Wales to help deliver infrastructure to support the development of their area. It is designed to help communities buy into having development when they can see the benefits of CIL for their community. Its aim is to make the planning system “fairer, faster and more certain and transparent.” There are some very concerning noises coming from Shirehall that may break this link between development and the community having the houses.
Open Countryside is defined as the area outside of any settlement with a defined settlement boundary. Where only development that is essential for the purposes of agriculture, forestry, outdoor recreation, public infrastructure, essential works undertaken by public service authorities or statutory undertakers, or for other uses appropriate to a rural area will be permitted.
Community Cluster is a group of settlements without a development boundary which shares facilities and is likely to have at least a partial reliance upon other settlements to meet certain day-to-day needs.
Community Hub is generally considered to offer
sufficient services and facilities to meet the day-to-day needs of their resident
communities. They have a development boundary.
Place Plan Centre a settlement that serves the settlement’s resident communities, provide major employment and services to hubs and their surrounding rural hinterlands