Council slammed over housing claim

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An environment watchdog has attacked a council’s claim that it needs up to 55,000 new homes over the next 20 years to meet the needs of its population.

The Council for the Protection of Rural England Bedfordshire (CPRE), says a Freedom of Information request reveals 60% of that figure will be for people moving into Central Bedfordshire.

The watchdog says CBC is claiming that it needs anywhere between 44,000 to 55,000 new homes built in Central Bedfordshire over the next twenty years – which includes 23,000 homes that are already allocated or have planning permission.

A spokesman said: “The proposed levels of house-building needed for Central Bedfordshire is one of the highest levels of all local authorities in the country. Plans include loss of valued countryside and greenspaces to urban extensions and new towns.”

An ‘Initial Strategic Housing Market Assessment for Luton and Central Bedfordshire’, which was published in July 2017 identified that the full ‘Objectively Assessed Need’ for housing in Central Bedfordshire needed to be 32,000 dwellings in Central Bedfordshire over the period 2015 – 2035.

Of these, the response to the Freedom of Information request reveals that just 41% of the new housing is to meet the needs of people currently living in Central Bedfordshire - most homes are being built for people moving into the area.

In addition to the Objectively Assessed Need of 32,000 homes, Central Bedfordshire Council has increased this housing number further by adding 7,400 homes for Luton’s residents, plus up to 20% “contingency”.

A CPRE Bedfordshire spokesperson said: “Of course new homes need to be planned for those moving into the area, but 60% is simply unsustainable, especially given that the local road and rail infrastructure is already struggling to cope at peak times.

“This over-development of the countryside is unsustainable and not fair on the residents of Central Bedfordshire.”

A spokesman for CBC said: “Central Bedfordshire is a prime location, close to London, well connected by road, rail and air. These factors mean that this has always been an appealing place to live and work, and has therefore always attracted people to move here. If we don’t take that into consideration then there will continue to be pressures on finding homes for families who already live in Central Bedfordshire.

“We, like all councils, are required by the Government to plan for new homes. All authorities are required to take account of trends in migration: they do not have a choice. National Planning Policy requires us to plan for enough homes to meet the needs of the population that is predicted to live here over the lifetime of our Draft Local Plan (2015 – 35). The number of homes we are required to deliver is calculated through a standard formula that requires us to take account of trends in migration, natural change (the difference between births and deaths), and affordability issues. This is also not a decision made by the council.”