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Meet the need for housing not the demand from developers!

February 21, 2021 11:00 PM

AN OPEN LETTER TO DACORUM MPS AND THE LEADER OF THE BOROUGH COUNCIL

Letter to the Gazette 210221We fully support meeting the 'need' for housing in Dacorum, especially when truly affordable and targeted at local people on the housing list. We also fully support the need for growth in the local economy. We do not, however, support the irreversible loss of precious green belt to provide for a housing number that is not supported by evidence of need. This loss of green belt is also contrary to the sustainable growth required to respond effectively to the climate emergency.

The slavish repetition of manifesto headlines by MPs, Sir Mike Penning and Gagan Mohindra, and the leader of Dacorum Borough Council, Andrew Williams (Hemel Today 4th February 2021) do a disservice to Dacorum's residents. Dacorum's leaders completely sidestep the specific questions posed by our letter of 29th January, and these are questions residents increasingly want answered in relation to the Local Plan's excessive level of development.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's (MHCLG) announcement on the 'Standard Method' for calculating housing targets of 16th December 2020 increases Dacorum's housing target from 922 houses a year to 1,023 houses a year. We challenge Dacorum's leaders, listed above, to address the following questions:

  1. Can they explain how the building of executive homes on greenbelt land will deliver the houses that are needed by local people, especially those on the housing waiting list? How will these houses be truly affordable?
  2. The MHCLG announcement states that "…in some places the numbers proposed by the standard method pose a risk to protected areas and Green Belt". How can they explain, then, that Dacorum, along with 42% of authorities with more than 1000 hectares of London's Greenbelt, has seen its housing target increase since 16th December?
  3. The MHCLG announcement states that they want to see an uplift in housing targets for the 20 most populated urban areas in England to take advantage of the availability of additional retail and office space arising from Covid. How can they explain that 6 of those urban areas have seen their target fall or stay the same since 16th December?
  4. Dacorum has a higher target than 5 of those most populated urban areas. What improvements to infrastructure will accompany this level of development?
  5. 70% of the houses being built are south of a line from the Wash to the Severn estuary. How does continued focus on development in the South of the country implement the government's policy of 'levelling up' the North of England?
  6. If the Local Plan is driven by evidence of housing 'need', then can they explain why the MHCLG is using 2014 Office of National Statistics data on housing need, rather than the more recent 2018 data?

The Local Plan, the government policy that drives it and our leaders' silence on the issues above, begs the question: "is housing policy simply a land grab to satisfy the demand for housing by developers?" We look forward to detailed answers.

Cllr William Allen on behalf of The Liberal Democrat Group on Dacorum Borough Council

For more info on the Local Plan, start here:https://hhlibdems.org.uk/en/article/2020/1385248/how-to-navigate-the-dacorum-local-plan-consultation