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New government house building plans described as ‘eye watering’

14 October, 2020 - 19:00
Government plans for new housing have been attacked by council leaders in Essex Picture: ANDREW HENDRY

Government plans for new housing have been attacked by council leaders in Essex Picture: ANDREW HENDRY

Andrew Hendry

Essex County Council (ECC) has said it will resist an “over inflation” of house building which under new proposed government rules could see an extra 1,100 new homes being built in Essex per year.

Proposed government changes in its planning white paper have been described as “eye watering”, prompting ECC to be asked for its assurance that the council will lobby the Government to resist such “an over inflation of house building in Essex”.

Under the plans set out in the government’s planning white paper, the entire county would expect to see 13,242 homes being built a year up from 10,683 under the current model.

In the ECC area, house building could increase from 8,355 to 10,435 per annum.

Among those most acutely affected by the changes are Maldon which would expect to see 623 new homes built a year – a 102 per cent increased on the current model.

Uttlesford would see its target increase from 706 homes to 1231 per year – an increase of 74 per cent.

Chelmsford would see its target go up from 946 homes per year to 1557 – an increase of 65 per cent.

Chelmsford leader Stephen Robinson warned about focusing on quantity and against the danger of expediting the creation of the type of “human warehousing” seen in Terminus House in Harlow, where under special development rules, offices can be converted into lots of small flats without special permission.

He said: “It’s a power grab by central government to remove local councillors’ input into the plan. Parish councils would lose their right to be consulted and the amount of affordable housing would reduce by 20 per cent.

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“We have made our views very clear and have briefed MPs around Chelmsford about our concerns.

“We want the message to get across that Chelmsford is not anti-growth – it is the infrastructure that needs to go with it and also local control.

“The crucial thing is quality and not just quantity and relaxing the rules in permitted development rights.

“We must never have a human warehouse like we have in Terminus House in Harlow. That is the danger of permitted development.”

At a full council meeting, Councillor Julie Young said the proposed changes the Government have consulted upon are “eye watering for some of our districts”.

Cllr Young asked: “Can I have an assurance that the portfolio holder will lobby Government to resist such an over-inflation of house building in Essex which would result from these figures being endorsed?”

In response, Councillor Kevin Bentley said the plans will lead to “difficult decisions” and hoped “you will be pleased to find that we agree”.

He added: “Furthermore, as the green belt remains protected, it is difficult to envisage how the housing numbers from the new standard method for assessing local housing need will be implemented, particularly prior to any local plan policies being in place and sites identified to deliver the housing uplift.

“Meeting housing existing levels of growth are already challenging and these potentially significant increases will further increase pressure on existing towns and villages, the natural and historic environment, community infrastructure (including schools) and transportation networks.

“We feel that there needs to be further consideration in conjunction with proposals being put forward as part of the Government’s Planning White Paper – Planning for the future.”


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