CPRE Oxfordshire launches new campaign to challenge SHMA figures
15th May 2014
CPRE Oxfordshire is today (Thursday 15 May) launching a new campaign – Protect Rural Oxfordshire (PRO) – to challenge the Oxfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), which suggests that 100,000 houses are needed in Oxfordshire by 2031, up from an earlier estimate of 54,700.
To mark the launch of its campaign, CPRE has appointed an independent Consultant, Alan Wenban-Smith, to critique the SHMA figures. Alan Wenban-Smith is an independent consultant in urban and regional policy.
A draft of the Consultant’s report (due to be made public shortly) concludes that the SHMA ‘is not in conformity with the National Planning Policy Framework’. There are two main reasons.
Firstly, Wenban-Smith says ‘The household projections in the SHMA are a wholesale replacement rather than an adjustment to the official base, as required by Practice Guidance’.
He says the SHMA numbers are not ‘reasonable adjustments’ to official figures as required by the NPPF, but at ‘the extreme top end of remote possibility’. The Consultants draft report shows that the housing needs recommended by the SHMA are almost 3 times (2.7) the official government projections they are derived from.
Secondly, the NPPF requires Local Plans to seek sustainable development through joint and simultaneous pursuit of economic, social and environmental gains (emphasis added).
According to Wenban-Smith, this has been ‘pre-empted’ by the ‘scale of the housing projections in the SHMA’ and the fact that they have been prepared ‘in isolation’.
The SHMA was not required to take into account social and environmental considerations, merely economic concerns.* This is the task of District Local Plans. However, the effect of the SHMA projections is ‘immediate’ – the NPPF requires a 5-year supply at the projected rate, and the tripling of this rate means that most Oxfordshire Districts will not meet this criterion. The net result will be ‘lasting damage to the planning process in Oxfordshire’.
Builders preference to build on Greenfield land, because it is cheaper and more profitable than brownfield, will lead to loss of countryside, and says Wenban-Smith ‘a more dispersed pattern of development and diversion of interest and investment in towns’.
Importantly, Wenban-Smith calls into question the popular belief that freeing up more land to build new houses by relaxing constraints on development (such as on Green Belt) will make housing more affordable. Even if the ‘unprecedently high’ household projections of the SHMA were delivered, which is highly doubtful says Wenban-Smith, the volume of new building would only have a ‘very weak influence on housing affordability’. He adds ‘it is difficult to see why the large scale builders would raise their output to levels which would adversely affect the prices they could get. Builders cannot and will not increase output unless prices continue to rise and rising prices will exclude most of the new households projected.’
Responding to the Consultant’s draft Report, Helen Marshall, CPRE Oxfordshire’s Director, concludes: “The only beneficiaries of the Oxfordshire SHMA are house builders, who will have carte blanche to develop what and where they like (which is high-end housing on Greenfield land – a precious and finite resource). The price will be paid by those who will pay for new infrastructure and services to support this (all of us), and those who depend for decent housing on the regeneration of Oxford and our towns (especially new and lower income households). Balancing these interests is a matter for the local planning process – which the SHMA pre-empts.
CPRE Oxfordshire will be sharing the Consultant’s final Report with District Councils and looks forward to working alongside Councillors and Leaders in providing more realistic and sustainable housing figures for the county that will regenerate our urban environment and protect our much valued rural landscape.”
Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), March 2012
NPPF Planning Practice Guidance, March 2014
Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), April 2013, ‘Interim 2011-basedhousehold projections for England’. The DCLG household projection for Oxfordshire is an estimated 1,825 homes pa, while the SHMA projection is 5,003 pa.
For further details of CPRE Oxfordshire’s PRO campaign, E: email@example.com