Inspector questions housing figures

The three councils involved in compiling the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) have been asked to look again at the figures they prepared on the number of homes needed in the area by 2030.

The Inspector who is conducting an Examination of the Plan has asked the three authorities – Malvern Hills District Council, Worcester City Council and Wychavon District Council – to do more work on the technical evidence used to establish how many homes the area will need.

The Inspector, Roger Clews, said in a letter to the councils that the number of homes required “is likely to be substantially higher than the 23,200 figure identified in the submitted Plan.”

The Inspector’s interim conclusions are published today at http://www.swdevelopmentplan.org/examination.

Councillor Judy Pearce, who chairs the South Worcestershire Joint Advisory Panel that leads work on the SWDP, said:“We are disappointed that our locally derived figures have been questioned by the Inspector. The Inspector clearly feels that the figure should be higher and has asked us to undertake more analysis to enable him to agree a final figure.

“It’s not unusual for many councils to have their plan rejected at this first stage of Examination, as has happened recently in Coventry, Nuneaton and Bedworth, North Warwickshire and elsewhere.

“So we are very pleased that the SWDP is still on track and we are looking forward to continuing to work with the Inspector to produce the technical work he has requested and to achieve the best result for local people from this process.”

The SWDP will guide South Worcestershire’s economic and housing growth over the next 17 years and, once adopted, will form the basis for planning decisions across South Worcestershire.

Today’s news follows public hearings in the first week of October, held as part of phase one of the Inspector’s Examination of the SWDP. His interim conclusions show that the three councils met the legally binding duty to co-operate with neighbouring councils and other bodies in preparing the Plan. He also supports the proposed use of 280 hectares of land in south Worcestershire for employment.

But he has questioned the evidence used as the basis for the figure of 23,200 new homes by 2030, and his interim conclusions note that developers at the hearings put forward a wide range of figures from 23,500 to 36,000.

His interim conclusions give little weight to the highest figures produced by developers.

Cllr Pearce said: “There has been pressure from some developers for higher numbers of homes and we are relieved that the Inspector has not accepted some of the more extreme suggestions.”

The councils have also been asked to revise their figures on how much retail space will be needed across south Worcestershire by 2030. The Plan currently calls for 50,000 square metres of new retail space to be built during the period covered by the Plan. The Inspector suggests that in some towns there may be a danger of too much retail space being created.

The three councils have been given until 8 November to produce a timetable for the compiling of the new housing data.

The Inspector says that once the new housing need assessment work is completed and published, he will hold another hearing before concluding this first phase of his Examination.

A second phase will follow, looking at the sites where it is proposed that new homes and businesses are built.

Further Information:

The South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) will provide a long-term vision up to 2030 for south Worcestershire, with the emphasis on boosting the local economy and delivering sustainable housing development.

It is based on extensive evidence and previous consultations and has been jointly prepared by the three partner councils – Malvern Hills, Worcester City and Wychavon.

The SWDP includes proposed policies for dealing with four broad areas:

  • Creating jobs and economic prosperity
  • Meeting housing needs
  • Transportation
  • The environment

Details of the proposals are available at http://www.swdevelopmentplan.org/examination.

The proposals build on the work done between 2007 and 2010 on the South Worcestershire Joint Core Strategy. The three councils decided to take a different approach when the coalition Government announced changes to the planning system.