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HOUSING PROVISION IN CORNWALL TO 2050

Oct 19, 2023

By Mark Dawes, Managing Director of CAD Architects

Today I have read an article in the West Briton reporting on Cornwall Council’s new Supported Housing Strategy which seeks to set out the Council’ approach to providing sufficient supported accommodation to 2050.

The strategy very helpfully identifies the number of dwellings in each category from accessible/adapted units through sheltered and extra care to homes for those experiencing domestic violence.

The total number of homes required is 48,645.

To put the above number in context the total number of dwellings planned for in the current local plan to 2030 (adopted in 2016) was 52,000 and change.

A new Local Plan is now beginning to be prepared and I wonder how the numbers will look.

I attended the Local Plan (Development Plan Document) Public Enquiry in 2016 prior to its adoption with a colleague who explained very clearly to the inspector that at that time and with the proposed numbers Cornwall Council’s Local Plan planned on day one to fail to deliver sufficient affordable housing for Cornwall. But the Inspector agreed with the Council that the ability to deliver the higher number of open market and affordable homes to meet our needs was not deliverable, what does that say about our ambition and the acceptance of new homes our communities need.

Subsequently, we have a declared housing crisis in Cornwall – it should not be a surprise to anyone involved in housing delivery, least of all the Authority in charge of planning for our future.

By Cornwall Council’s own admission there were recently 22600 households in housing need in Cornwall, we have 750 – 800 households living in temporary accommodation.

Why are we here?

There are many reasons for our housing crisis and Cornwall is by no means alone in this situation, nationally the bitter battle between housing providers, NIMBYs, The National Trust, Campaign for Rural England and other such bodies rages on a daily basis. Even at a local level the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Site, Conservation Areas, Ecological Impacts etc all actively seek to prevent the delivery of housing.

Of course, we need rigour in assessment of the impact of development, we need to protect our wild and open spaces, the industry is committed to biodiversity net gain, but the reach and power of these blocker organisations paralyses the delivery of housing. It is not uncommon for a housing site to take two or more years to achieve planning consent.

The first change that must occur at every level of society is an acceptance that our population will inexorably increase.

In Cornwall in 2021 there were 4834 births, new Cornish people who in 23 or 24 years or less will need a home. The next plan stretches to 2050, so do the maths. We also have inward migration from those seeking a better life. We have divorce at unprecedented levels splitting families and increasing housing need. We also have an aging population with people living longer. As a consequence, we must adequately plan to accommodate, employ and entertain those new people.

In accepting continuous unstoppable change, we free ourselves to plan adequately for such change. In making proper fully developed plans of adequate capacity we can ensure the infrastructure is in place in time to support such change. We can protect that which is worthy and important to protect, and we build cohesive sustainable communities.

The current Planning Policy Framework was/is a good attempt at trying to simplify the framework within which Local Authorities work to produce Local Plans, but it is still rooted in a needs based lowest number up system. We need change.

Everyone knows that if you restrict supply, you increase rarity and value. We need a system that promotes sufficient supply to meet demand and prevent upward pressure on prices.

The Planning for The Future White Paper in 2020 was a radical departure from the current approach, but it was scrapped as a result of political pressure from grass roots Tory councillors afraid of the NIMBY lobby. If we are ever to solve our housing issue and if we are to improve the quality of our built environment, we need a new system that encourages Local Authorities’ to properly masterplan growth of sufficient scale to actually accommodate what is required and more. Will the changes in the Levelling Up Bill make this better – it remains to be seen but the policy bods I know are sceptical.

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