Wed, 11 Apr 2018
NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon has urged West Berkshire Council not to rest on its laurels in meeting its housing completion targets.
Last month, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid, who is responsible for housing, said councils could be stripped of their planning powers if not enough homes were being built in their areas.
Over the past three years, the council has built 1,606 homes – 389 short of its target of 1,995.
Authorities that fall below the Government’s target of 75 per cent of completions will risk losing their planning powers, although there will be a number of stages before that intervention.
West Berkshire Council currently has an 80.5 per cent completion rate.
Mr Benyon hailed the new measures as an ‘aggressive approach’ from the Government.
While he praised the council for delivering above the required threshold, he warned there was no room for complacency due to the huge demand for houses to be built.
He said: “West Berkshire Council had in their manifesto three years ago to improve affordable housing through the planning process and they remain committed in delivering housing targets.
“They are above the threshold.
“If they were below it, then that would be a real concern.”
The housing targets are part of a major overhaul to the National Planning Policy Framework.
It will also see the introduction of a Housing Delivery Test, which will determine whether councils are meeting their net targets over a three year period.
The council’s deputy leader for planning, housing and leisure Hilary Cole confirmed the council had commenced a review of the local plan, looking ahead to 2036, which will see 4,400 houses identified on sites that are being delivered between now and 2022.
This does not include the proposed developments at Sandleford Park or the London Road Industrial Estate, but does include Market Street.
Mrs Cole said: “What the [housing] minister had to say about the housing crisis was very interesting, because for the first time, the development industry has been told it will be held to account.
“The Government has recently consulted a standard methodology for calculating housing need and as per that methodology the annual need for West Berkshire would be 545 dwellings.
“We are currently working on the basis of a higher annual need of 665 dwellings per annum.”
But opposition leader Lee Dillon, (Thatcham North) urged the council to concentrate more on the type of houses being delivered and not become fixated on the numbers.
He said: “The announcement that the Government may step in when planning authorities don’t deliver enough houses is welcomed, but it needs to look at whether councils are providing the right type of housing and not just absolute numbers.
“In West Berkshire, the council is below target for overall completions versus need and below their own target for providing affordable housing.”