Local Plan: “New” housing land figures released

Big City small

The York Council has released what it claims are new figures intended to quantify the demand for housing development land in York.

The most recent Office of National Statistics population forecasts for the City show a marked reduction compared to the assumptions used when Labour published their version of the Local Plan three years ago.

Their plan to build 23,400 additional homes, mainly to accommodate foreign immigration demand (see table 5), prompted a “Big City or Our City” debate at the last local elections in May 2015. Labour’s ideas were rejected at that poll and the expectation is that the York Council will revert to a more reasonable annual building target of around 575 homes per year

Population increase drivers. Click to enlarge

Population increase drivers. Click to enlarge

Population growth forecasts, produced by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), have reduced dramatically in recent months. They currently show the City’s population growing from 203,000 to 224,000 (approx 21,000 people) between 2012 and 2031.

 With an average of 2.2 people residing at each dwelling, that is equivalent to a requirement for about 500 additional homes each year. To this should be added an assumption about economic growth (which generates  additional housing demand)

The new report will come as a disappointment to many. It fails to examine the capacity of the City to absorb growth without fundamental damage to its character.

 The jargon littered papers conclude that 758 additional homes are required each year.

The report does make some progress on two issues:

  1. It accepts that there is a 5 year supply of land available to satisfy immediate housing demand requirements. The list of sites considered to be available (most already have planning permission) can be found by clicking here
  2. Officials now accept that part – around 140 additional homes pa – of the housing demand will be satisfied from “windfall” opportunities. These are sites which the Local Plan either does not schedule for housing or a combination of very small sites. Most of the planning permissions granted in recent years have been for windfall sites not identified in the 2013 Plan.

The Council seems still to be some way from finding its way through a mass of contradictory evidence.

Muddle, confusion, division and delay – York’s Local Plan

Yesterday’s York Council working group meeting should have sorted out a way forward which would have led to majority support for a new Local Plan for the City.Green Belt campaign logo

Instead a maverick Tory Councillor, Joe Watt, voted against his own parties policies when he sided with the “Big City” proposals which Labour have been touting around for the last 3 years. The high growth proposals were rejected at the October Council meeting having attracted a record number of objections from residents (over 15,000).

The latest proposals envisage an average of 926 additional homes being built in the City each year leading to a total build of 14,816 by 2030.  The character and setting of the City would be changed for ever.

The majority of the houses would be built on Green Belt land and would be occupied by inward migrants.

Existing York Green Belt boundaries. click to enlarge

Existing York Green Belt boundaries. click to enlarge

On average the City has seen – over the last 15 years –  just over 600 homes built each year.

Lack of planning permissions and identified development sites has rarely, if ever, been a problem during that period.

Over 80% of new homes have been provided on previously developed (brownfield) sites during the last 2 years.

The Council has been totally opaque in its dealings over the Local Plan. Even now Freedom of Information requests are subject to ongoing delays.

The York Council has also still to come up with a workable governance system which will see it through to the “all out” local elections in May.

We doubt that many existing Councillors will be re-elected if they don’t step up to the plate and respect the wishes of York residents.  Cllr Watt, in particular, is leaving an unwelcome legacy with 4000 new homes now likely to be built on Green Belt land on the doorsteps of  Skelton and Clifton Moor electors.

The Local Plan is the biggest remaining issue for the present Council to sort out.

It needs to find a consensus approach and quickly.

Local Plan meeting agenda published

The Council has published a further report on the number of new homes that it believes should be built in the City over the next 20 years.

The report fails completely to offer any possibility of reaching a consensus, driven, as it is, by the now discredited “Big City” strategy devised by the last Labour administration.

Council officials need to get back to basics.  History is fact and an average of around 600 additional homes is what has been produced in the City over the last few decades.

Births, deaths and house building click to enlarge

Births, deaths and house building click to enlarge

In the last two years the housing waiting list in the City has fallen from a peak of 4692 to 1344. That is the backlog in demand that needs to be accommodated and, with nearly 5000 outstanding planning permissions available in the city, volume requirements  (but not necessary affordability) can be addressed.

Natural population growth (births minus deaths) have averaged around 1000 a year producing an internal demand for less than 500 additional homes each year.

As was explained a coupe of days ago, there are a vast range of opinions on what may happen over the next two decades.

It is however highly unlikely that we will see high levels of sustained economic growth over the longer term. There will be peaks and troughs

Hence a figure of between 600 and 650 additional homes per year – on average – is a reasonable and justifiable aspiration.

The sooner York Council officials recognise this and get on with planning on that basis the sooner York’s Local Plan can achieve widespread support.

York Local Plan – new housing figures raise more questions

New figures provided by the York Council cast further doubts on the soundness of the Labour Local Plan for the City.

The Council recently revealed a new raft of sites which it is considering for housing development.  Following an intervention from LibDem Councillors the Labour Leadership was forced to agree to publish the numbers of homes that it hopes to fit on each site.

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That may come as little comfort to residents.

Estimates of the capacity of some sites included in the original Plan – published 12 months ago – proved to be very wide of the mark with sites like Our Lady’s in Windsor Garth slated to accommodate 60% more homes than allocated in the original plan.

Now the Council has been asked to respond to criticisms that it failed to identify nearly 1000 sites for homes which were subsequently granted planning permission between 1st October 2012 (the original plan base date) and 1st April 2014.

1793 additional homes were given the “go ahead” by the Planning Committee during that 19 month period.

As previously reported, 959 of these were on (mainly brownfield) sites of over 0.2 htr which should have been separately identified in the draft Plan …….but weren’t.

Permission for 144 homes was given through the conversion of existing commercial buildings like Hilary House.

Stonebow House missing

There is no mention in the Councils plans for buildings like Stonebow House or the Ryedale House building in Piccadilly.

Objectors fundament criticism  remains that Labour’s plans for 22,000 additional  homes is not only unnecessary (there are only 2000 people on the housing waiting list in the City) but they are also unsustainable.

 Expanding the City in size by 25% in just 15 years would have disastrous consequences for local infrastructure.

Transport systems would simply be unable to cope

NB. The high levels of planning permissions granted in recent months is the equivalent of a supply of over 1100 homes per annum.

That is markedly higher than the 575 agreed by the then LibDem led Council as necessary in its March  2011 Local Plan.

959 housing sites “missed” from draft Local Plan

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Nearly two thirds, of the homes granted planning permission since Labours draft Local Plan was drawn up, have been for sites omitted from the Plan.

A total of 1831 new sites for homes have been agreed since October 2012.

This is in addition to the 3231 sites which already had planning permission.

That means developers could now erect 5062 homes in the City – a 6 year supply of land, based on average house building rates over the last decade.

Of the total new permissions granted, 1678 were for brownfield sites. The vast majority – including the former Press offices in Walmgate – were not identified for residential use when the draft Local Plan was published 12 months ago.

The Council’s plans continue to under-estimate the supply of brownfield land. The plan should identify any site – of more that 0.2 ha in size – with potential for housing.  The draft Plan failed to do so.

The additional sites which will be considered on 17th April also fail to do so.

The Council has also said that it does not know how many additional homes could be accommodated on the new sites due to be considered on 17th April.

It is an important issue as the Council has not made any allowance for “windfall” sites in its calculation of the total build requirement for the next 15 years.

Nor has it identified the potential for conversion of existing commercial property with some very large opportunities – such as Ryedale House, Stonebow and Hillary House – excluded from the calculations.

Promised conversions, of the upper floors of shopping premises, have also been excluded.

A full list of the permissions granted can be downloaded from here

The figures are likely to be of considerable significance when the Local Plan reaches the Examination in Public Inquiry stage.

The make up of the Draft local Plan base numbers is as follows:

The Local Plan Preferred Options was based on a position at 1st October 2012. The total number of residential net outstanding consents (commitments) at that date was 3,231 dwellings. This is detailed in Chapter 10 of the LPPO document (Housing Growth and Distribution). The table below splits this figure into site categories.