MBC won’t give up without a fight over housing numbers

23 Sep 2020

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Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) has said it won’t give up without a fight over the proposed government new housing numbers

A meeting of the Council’s StrMaidstone Borough Council (MBC) has said it won’t give up without a fight over the proposed government new housing numbers.ategic Planning and Infrastructure (SPI) Committee, held yesterday 22 September, saw a strenuous debate around how quickly it should act, and the risks involved regarding the proposed numbers.  However, all Committee Members were united on the objective of acting quickly before higher numbers could be imposed.

The Council continues to call for the numbers to be reduced and said that it thinks there are fundamental flaws in the way that the government calculates the housing target for the borough.

Maidstone is currently undertaking a review of its Local Plan under the current formula, known as the Standard Methodology.  This results in the Council’s annual housing provision target was due to rise by 40% from 883 to 1214 with the scheduled adoption of the Plan in 2022. However, under the proposed new government formula, which could be introduced very quickly, this figure could potentially rise from 883 to 1569, an increase of almost 80%.

The SPI Committee received a report proposing a change to the current local development scheme in order to shorten the timeline to the current Local Plan and ensure that the new increased figure is avoided for as long as possible. As part of this, the report also proposed to amend the Council’s Statement of Community Involvement which would shorten the public consultation period at Regulation 18b from six weeks to three. However, MBC Officers assured that all conversations with stakeholders would commence before the formal public consultation in order to mitigate this change.

Cllr David Burton – Chair of the MBC Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Committee said: “It is a mistake to introduce such inflated housing numbers and expect them to be delivered in Maidstone.  The proposed increase is just not practical, and we feel it should be reduced.  Targets are being proposed which we doubt developers are capable of delivering. This would result in further penalties in even higher numbers which is ridiculous. 

“The Council will continue to work hard together to put a plan in place to give us protection from speculative targets.” 

MBC has said that to focus so much of growth in Kent would be a mistake and that the government is working at odds with the market, but if it is to be introduced, it should at the very least be brought in in such a manner to allow the Council to complete its current LPR before it has to plan for increased numbers.

Leader of the Council, Cllr Martin Cox added: “The proposed new housing numbers are a recipe for chaos and are coming under a lot of scrutiny from many quarters. This is only to be expected as it has already been difficult for MBC to reach the current numbers and had placed huge pressures on many of our communities. 

“We are calling for the government to rethink and review their proposal.  The whole basis of this new formula would place unachievable pressures not only on areas such as Maidstone and across Kent but would also result in housing targets in parts of the North of England falling dramatically. We believe that this is causing unnecessary concern not only to us as an authority but also upset for our local communities in planning for a housing target that the market will possibly never be able to deliver.

“Planning for the number we are already attempting to accommodate in the current Local Plan Review has already caused enormous anxiety within our communities, and even the distribution of this number is not yet finally agreed. So, to now be asked potentially for a huge increase is just adding to those concerns and seems grossly unfair.”

The proposed new government formula was discussed earlier this month at the Council Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Committee meeting on 8 September when Members unanimously agreed that the Council should do all it could to delay the impact of the new target for as long as possible.  It then instructed Officers to come back to its’ meeting on 22 September with a revised timeline designed to shorten the preparation period for the LPR.    

The Maidstone Local Plan Review is currently approaching the second stage with a second public consultation (Preferred Approaches – Regulation 18b), which will allow for all interested parties to comment.   This was scheduled to begin in October 2020, with a further round of public consultations to commence in February 2021. 

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