OXFORDSHIRE’s Conservative MPs and council leaders have revolted against the Government’s recommended housing calculation of 100,000 new homes for the county.
Conservative MPs Ed Vaizey (Wantage) above, and John Howell (Henley) have called on the Government to urgently review the method for calculating the figures, and all four Conservative district leaders are to challenge them.
Meanwhile, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has employed a specialist officer to find flaws in the Government-imposed methodology.
The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), published in March, recommends that councils build 40,000 more homes than their own previous targets by 2031.
Wantage MP Mr Vaizey said: “Many local communities are now faced with levels of growth that will fundamentally change the nature of settlements.
“Demographic trends show that the Vale of White Horse needs 468 houses per year, yet the methodology leads to a figure of 1,028.”
In a letter wrote to planning minister Nick Boles Mr Vaizey said: “I would be very grateful if you and your officers could consider an urgent review of the planning methodology that leads to such massive numbers of homes being planned so that more realistic outcomes result.”
Henley MP Dr Howell backed the call, adding: “The SHMA is not a tested document; it is evidence only.”
The county’s district council leaders, Matthew Barber, Ann Ducker, Barry Norton and Barry Wood, all backed the call for an urgent review.
South Oxfordshire leader Mrs Ducker said: “This is causing great concern and those that have looked at the methodology are questioning it.”
Oxfordshire’s council leaders will meet on May 29, and Mrs
Ducker said she would like to use that meeting to work out how to challenge the SHMA.
West Oxfordshire District Council leader Barry Norton said his planning officers were already looking into the SHMA to see if the district’s calculated need of 13,200 was accurate.
He said: “I think the number is wrong for West Oxfordshire, and if our officers decide it is inaccurate we will be challenging it.”
Vale of White Horse District Council leader Matthew Barber said: “We are supportive of that. Any changes which could be favourable for the Vale we would be grateful for.”
Cherwell leader Barry Wood said: “I would agree with Matt, Ann and Barry, the numbers are very high and it won’t do any harm to test their validity.”
South Oxfordshire leader Ann Ducker
All councils are required by the Government to carry out regular SHMAs to ensure they are building enough homes.
Oxfordshire’s five district council’s contracted a partnership of private firms – GL Hearn Justin Gardner Consulting and SQW Consulting – to carry out the latest.
CPRE Oxfordshire has employed campaign manager Dr Helena Whall to discredit the SHMA methodology and the arguments it is based on.
Dr Whall said: “We feel the SHMA is unsound, unacceptable and unwanted. We are not happy with the strategic plan for Oxfordshire, such as expansion of the Science Vale, which is where these housing figures come from.
“They want to provide more jobs and therefore they need more
She also said she wants to dispel the myth that building more
houses would lower house prices.
She said: “Builders only build them if they can sell them.”
Oxford City Council leader Bob Price and Oxford East Labour MP Andrew Smith, however, backed the SHMA figure.
Mr Smith said: “You can always argue about these sorts of numbers, but the bottom line for me is all the people coming to my advice surgeries and stopping me in the street because they are in desperate need of better housing.”
Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry, above, said people needed to recognise an “increasing number of people wanting to come and live in Oxfordshire”.
Oxford West and Abingdon Conservative MP Nicola Blackwood, above, said: “Clearly I would welcome a review of the housing need calculation for Oxfordshire as well as greater flexibility for councils to find local housing solutions.
“However, nothing will change the fact that sky-high house prices and jobs growth mean we do need to build houses locally, so my priority is to ensure all development has the necessary infrastructure to support it and does not unacceptably damage the Green Belt.”
We asked Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron’s office for a response but did not receive a comment.