Our campaign to change ‘inflexible’ formula for calculating housing numbers

Did you know that 80% of local authorities in the Chilterns are making plans to build houses in Green Belt because they say there is simply no-where else for them to go? Some councils are having to make room for two or three times more houses than they originally envisaged in their Local Plans because of the inflexible formula laid down for calculating housing need.

The end result will cause serious, irreversible damage to the Chilterns countryside, which stretches through Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

We have written to the 15 MPs that cover the Chilterns area to request meetings, including the Prime Minister Theresa May whose Maidenhead constituency borders the Chilterns and whose country home, Chequers, is within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It says the current formula for calculating housing need is clumsy and inflexible and in need of fundamental reform.

We believe that at the heart of the problem is the planning concept of Objectively Assessed Need (OAN) and the expectation that each planning authority should meet this need within its own area. This essentially requires councils to calculate future housing needs by looking at past trends. In effect it leaves no leeway to consider the capacity of the area to accommodate the numbers.

We’re concerned that the Government’s latest Housing White Paper fails to recognise that in some circumstances OAN cannot be met without irreversible damage to the character of an area or undermining the fundamental purposes of Green Belt.

We are calling for a four point change:

  • Housing targets to be determined more flexibly and intelligently
  • Green Belt, AONB and the overall character of an area  to become legitimate reasons for reducing housing targets
  • Real housing need in an area to be considered instead of calculating numbers via a one-fits-all formula
  • Councils to be given the ability to deliver a range of homes in terms of tenure, type and size that meets genuine local need.

We appreciate that there is a need for new housing – indeed in this area there are particular issues for young people wishing to stay in the area they grew up in.  But what is needed for such people is genuinely affordable or low-cost homes and in this respect the current system lets them down. By and large, local councils cannot exert meaningful influence to ensure that the right type and number of housing for this local need is delivered.”

Read our letter to MPs here:

letter to MPs page 1 letter to MPs page 2