Our countryside is being destroyed
by the scale and type of building development that is taking place.
The government has set a target of
building 300,000 houses per year. The formula
it devised to determine housing need across the country, however, has recently
been found to include major errors in its statistical projections, which means the
government’s figures for housing need are grossly inflated. Housing need is now being estimated at nearly
50% below the government annual target.
Local authorities have no say in the
number of houses they are required to plan to build. They are bribed or penalised by central
government over funding and meeting house-building targets; and they are also
blackmailed by developers into granting planning consent to avoid the expense
of government-policy-endorsed legal action against them if they try to
refuse. That’s why CPRE are calling the
National Planning Policy Framework a speculative developers’ charter.
So rather than delivering what
communities want, local government and local democracy effectively does not
exist when it comes to planning permission in this country – this is why your
voice and all your objections to Vearse Farm have been ignored by the council.
This situation is made worse here
in West Dorset because the original, adopted Local Plan had a target of just
under 16,000 houses based on the flawed national government formula, but the
Local Plan Review has increased this figure to just over 19,000. So if the government formula is wrong by 50%,
then the number of houses planned for West Dorset is grossly excessive by a
Not only that, but the national targets
are higher in areas such as Dorset where affordability is a problem, but the
formula does not take into account the fact that the kind of growth it promotes
may be applicable to urban areas and big cities, but is not appropriate for a
small market town in a rural area, like Bridport.
Adding insult to injury, the West
Dorset Local Plan Review admits
that its house-building target is an oversupply that significantly exceeds what
is purported to be the ‘objectively assessed need’ – while at the same time
stating that ‘the total projected need for affordable housing is not
expected to be met in the plan review period’. This is because the houses planned to be
built will in the main be luxury, unaffordable housing designed to make huge
profits for developers but nothing to help local Dorset people.
Now if you’re thinking this isn’t so bad because laws of supply and
demand mean an oversupply of houses will bring prices down – think again. The only people likely to be able to afford
these houses are retirees from the big cities or second-home owners. Such people are able and prepared to pay a
premium for the houses, which will, in fact push prices up in the area. So the 35% of so-called affordable houses
pledged but not guaranteed to be built on developments like Vearse Farm, will
be available for 80% of a cost vastly inflated by the model itself.
So the entire planning policy is flawed, and biased completely towards
profits for the developers while doing nothing to help house local people and
families in need of low-cost and social housing.
West Dorset District Council has also failed to provide any kind of
brownfield first policy. In order to
build on AONB land, the council and the developers have to prove that there are
exceptional circumstances and that it is in the public interest for the AONB status
– which should afford the highest possible protections – to be overruled. The fact that this development will not help
local people get the houses they need and can afford, shows that there are no
exceptional circumstances to justify disregarding the law on this and
concreting over our countryside.
Part of the reason the CPRE has granted ADVEARSE match-funding of up to
£10,000 towards a judicial review against Vearse Farm is that it will be the
biggest development ever to have been built on AONB land. This is therefore a problem much bigger than
Bridport alone, because if it is allowed to go ahead without challenge it will
set a dangerous precedent allowing planning authorities to build anywhere on
green belt and AONB land – and it will effectively destroy the protections of
the AONB designation all over the country.
Should ADVEARSE be successful, however, it will set a helpful legal precedent that can be applied across the whole of the planning process for West Dorset, regardless of existing Local Plan allocations, and one which will help to sustain and support AONB protections elsewhere in the country.
Please give your support to this campaign, as CPRE has done.