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Press Release on Dorset Housing Needs Reports

13th January 2022

PR-3: Dorset Council Report confirms plans for excessive housing target unjustifiable

Press release

Dorset Council’s plans to build 39,000 houses across rural Dorset cannot be justified and will lead to planning chaos. It would require population growth to double”. This is a clear conclusion to emerge from the report by Iceni for Dorset Council (DC) on Dorset’s Housing Needs says Dorset CPRE Chairman Peter Bowyer. “It is in the interests of everyone that we now work together to develop an alternative approach.”

It is now imperative for DC to question the assumptions behind the housing target cited in its draft Local Plan. The publication of the Joint Housing Needs Assessment, together with Bournemouth Christchurch Poole (BCP) Council’s Issues and Options consultation refutes the need for DC to meet BCP shortfall and challenges the methodology used to calculate the overall target. In addition, BCP is showing strong leadership and courage in challenging its target and exposing the weakness of the Standard Method used to calculate targets. DC should follow BCP’s lead in seeking a more realistic target that will better meet local need without inflicting irreparable damage on Dorset’s outstanding landscape, environment and heritage.

According to the analysis, using the revised target, BCP would be able to meet its own housing need without releasing Green Belt land. Moreover, if DC doesn’t have to include an allocation for BCP anymore, DC could also potentially meet its housing need without releasing AONB or Green Belt land.

The joint report admits that current population projections, even with younger households restored back to 2001 formation rates, are insufficient to supply buyers for the housing being planned, so homes may have to remain empty or not be built at all, since developers will only build homes they can actually sell. Peter Bowyer, Chairman of Dorset CPRE, said, “If the houses are not built, then the Local Plan would fail the housing delivery test leading to a developer led free-for-all and planning chaos. It is in the interests of everyone that we now work together to establish the case for an alternative approach.”

Additionally, the report points out that the surplus of houses created by slavish adherence to Government targets could only be sold by greatly increasing the numbers of people moving into Dorset from elsewhere3, exacerbating the already top-heavy age structure of the County and promising nothing extra to help affordability. Population growth in the plan period would need to double1, it says. As the report puts it: “Were the migration to not materialise, it is more likely that the development industry would stop or slow down the rate of building, rather than building homes to remain empty.” Peter Bowyer commented, “For rural Dorset, housing market demand is determined by in-migration since there is negative natural population growth (i.e. deaths exceed births). There are substantial risks in proposing high housing numbers that cannot be justified on the basis of past or forecast demand.”

In light of the findings of the two reports mentioned, Dorset CPRE urges DC to re-examine its housing targets and the underlying assumptions as a matter of urgency, to arrive at a realistic figure that will meet local need while protecting Dorset’s precious landscape, environment and heritage.

Technical Note

There is scope within government policy and guidance to set a locally derived housing need figure when there are exceptional circumstances which justify an alternative approach to the standard methodology, provided the alternative approach also reflects current and future demographic trends and market signals. The standard methodology uses the 2014 based subnational housing projections. However, both the Iceni and BCP analysis cast doubt on those projections and the methodology used. Both BCP and Dorset Council could argue that there are exceptional circumstances which justify a departure from the standard methodology. In the case of rural Dorset this case could be built not only on the standard method’s reliance on flawed household formation formulae and assumptions of high in-migration, but also on the exceptional quality of Dorset’s environment, wildlife and cultural heritage which make the council’s proposed high levels of development both damaging and inappropriate for rural Dorset.

Refs: (All in Iceni’s First Housing Needs Assessment (HNA) Report)

1. See Chapter 6 summary, 10% and 5% 

2. See para 6.50 for instance in the first HNA report

3. Comparing para 6.50 4,800 with para 6.16 2,700 + 500

4. See para 6.40

Links to the Iceni reports:

Dorset and BCP Local Housing Needs Assessment

Examining Demographics and Testing the Standard Method in BCP and Dorset

and the BCP consultation Issues and Options paper is at https://haveyoursay.bcpcouncil.gov.uk/localplan 

 

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