Scrapping East Cambs local housing plan creates uncertainty, exacerbates crisis and drives up prices, says Housebuilders’ Federation

An artist's impression of what Kennett could look like as a garden village. Picture: ARCHITECT.

An artist's impression of what Kennett could look like as a garden village. Picture: ARCHITECT. - Credit: Archant

Spiralling house prices, cancellation of major infrastructure projects and slowing down of Government investment could be the outcome of East Cambridgeshire Council scrapping their emerging local plan, they were warned today.

The Home Builders Federation attacked the council ahead of a meeting on Thursday that could see two years work on a new plan abandoned.

Mark Behrendt, planning manager for local plans at the federation, said: “East Cambridgeshire has consistently under delivered on new homes and the inspector’s proposed changes would have helped ensure that the backlog in supply was addressed earlier.

“By not planning properly for its future housing the council risks losing out on the huge social and economic contribution house building makes.

“Not only would the local area be missing out on major investment that would deliver more jobs, affordable housing and improvements to infrastructure it will also mean that the council are less likely to benefit from the additional funding from central government.

He said: “The approach taken by the council will mean that the backlog in housing needs will not be delivered leading to worsening affordability in an area where average house prices are nearly 10 times average incomes.”

Mr Behrendt warned: “Since the Government is committed to building an ambitious 300,000 homes per year across the country, East Cambridgeshire has to ensure that it is doing its part to meet the targets given. The local plan in part was helping to ensure these targets were met.”

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“It is a requirement under the planning system to have an up to date local plan in place. Government is currently targeting those local authorities that do not have an adopted plan and putting them into ‘special measures’.”

The federation says that in areas where there is not an up to date plan in place decisions on development are taken ‘by appeal’ on an individual site by site basis. “The inspector is instructed to weight his decision in favour of the developer because of the fact that the council doesn’t have a plan in place that will deliver the homes needed,” said Mr Behrendt.

“This ‘speculative’ method of deciding where development takes place does not encourage joined up planning and creates huge uncertainty for communities.”

East Cambridgeshire District Council and the planning inspector have disagreed on the local plan for housing and this says the federation creates huge uncertainty for residents and businesses in the district.

East Cambs Council is expected to reject the inspector’s proposed changes and withdrew the plan that according to the housebuilders’ federation “will throw the process for agreeing where new homes will be built up into turmoil”.

By law all local authorities are required to have a local plan in place, detailing their proposals for future housing supply.

By abandoning the new plan and reverting to one put together in 2015, the council believes it can still deliver on new build targets and re-establish certainty in the local housing building market.

The federation is less sure, insisting that “the disagreement and the council’s subsequent withdrawal of the plan means that there is now no blueprint in place for how new homes will be built.

“As a result decisions on new developments will be on a speculative ad-hoc ‘appeal’ basis that creates uncertainty for all. The confusion created by the council’s decision is especially concerning given that there was already a huge backlog in supply”.

In order to meet housing needs the federation says East Cambs needs to ensure the delivery of nearly 600 homes a year.

“In 2017/18 just 289 homes were built,” said their spokesman. “This continued undersupply of new homes will only exacerbate the housing crisis in the area, driving up house prices further and making it even more difficult for young people to find a home.

“It will also mean the area could be missing out on millions of pounds worth of investment in infrastructure and amenities and the economic boost that house building can provide.”