The “It’s not us its them” housing numbers game

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28 Nov 2010
The recent meeting of the Local Development Framework Panel on Thursday 25th November provided us with an insight into why the Council is refusing to address the Government’s own guidance on housing numbers.
 
Whilst there is undoubtedly an element of truth in what was said, this remains a very short term issue and there is also no doubt that in a very short space of time the Council will indeed have the option to reappraise and set their own housing targets.
 
In terms of Stones Farm this is simply a case of pushing this site through the planning process as quickly as possible before there is the need to re-evaluate the housing numbers. There is absolutely no reason why the progression of this site could not wait until such time as the Council had a clear understanding of what their position was.

Here is what was said.

Cllr Andrew Bowles

“My regret at one particular developer by challenging the Secretary of State statement has made it far harder for us to take due cognisance of that statement in terms of reviewing housing numbers. While I say that I’m well aware of the housing needs of the borough and I’m aware that we have over 3,000 applicants on the housing waiting list. I’m aware and correct me if I’ve got my figure wrong that 71% of our residents can’t afford even affordable housing and that rises to 79% in the rural areas. So I’m well aware of the housing need but not withstanding that I would have preferred to have approached this whole document and indeed the later document on Core Strategy in light of the governments announcements rather than having them effectively set aside on an interim basis by the actions of one developer.”

Chairman Gerry Lewin

“Until further notice the Regional Spatial Strategy housing numbers are in place and therefore we are considering this at a time when they are still in place. What this Council will do when those numbers are extinguished is yet to come and I wouldn’t want to make any comment at this stage about which way we are going to jump because that’s for members to decide.”

Cllr Andrew Bowles

“In corporate terms the Council is the 47 of us, so it’s not a question of sitting back washing one’s hands of the subject and saying it’s nothing to do with me. Whatever decision we will make will be a collective decision of the 47 of us and expecting someone else, whether it’s our officer’s or indeed the Secretary of State to make the decision for us totally flies in the face of the localism agenda when very much it’s the 47 of us in consultation, reflecting the wishes of our residents should be making that decision.”

The main issue that I take with the above is that James Freeman, Head of Development Services is already on record stating that

“Without prejudicing the outcome of the development options for the core strategy, it is likely that more rather than less housing will be needed”

Which I think would be considered to be a fairly prejudiced statement to make before the options have even gone out to public consultation.

However this is further prejudiced by the fact that the Council is only going to provide options for the housing numbers to remain the same or increase. There are no options which look at reducing housing numbers which seems a significant oversight if you were inclined to believe the rhetoric from Cllr Andrew Bowles. There is only one option that increases housing number so with my limited knowledge of probability I’d have thought “more likely” wasn’t likely unless of course you’re totally biased to start with.

Isn’t it about time the leader of Swale Borough Council, Cllr Andrew Bowles stopped blaming everyone else for his own shortcomings and took some responsibility for his lack of real leadership?

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