There is no need to build 3,500 new homes on the downs north of Dorchester’s water meadows, or at Crossways – because the developments are based on wildly inaccurate government figures.
That is the claim by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), who commissioned an independent study that shows official figures overestimate housing demand in the South-West and that targets are far too high.
The CPRE in neighbouring Devon commissioned the in-depth study to find out how many extra homes are really needed in Devon, which like Dorset is earmarked for massive new housing developments.
The report by Opinion Research Services reveals the number of new homes planned for Devon is 35% higher than actually needed, and is based on flawed government methodology for assessing future housing need – the same formula used in Dorset’s Local Plan.
The research also contradicts claims that the majority of Devon’s new homes are being built to meet local housing need – with two-thirds being built to satisfy inward migration.
CPRE claims most of the homes being delivered are unaffordable to local families, many of whom are on low earnings, and too many estates are designed as ‘executive housing’.
“There is a need for affordable housing, or housing with occupancy restrictions, especially in rural areas, to encourage local households to stay, particularly younger ones and those on low incomes who work in the local economy,” the report says.
“We found that housebuilding is unlikely to reduce prices overall; new-build homes are more expensive.”
The report recommends that any new development should:
- Prioritise the development of ‘brownfield’ sites;
- Be in keeping with the area;
- Accommodate the needs of a growing elderly population;
- Consider increasing Council Tax on empty and second homes.
Penny Mills, director of CPRE Devon said: “Everybody should be alarmed at the scale of development that is taking place or planned, much of it on our green fields. People who claim to love nature, wildlife, and the environment should be concerned at the loss of precious habitats.
“Anybody who is involved in the tourist industry should be worried. Tourism is one of the biggest contributors to the economy throughout the South-West.
“Why? Because people come for the beautiful coast and countryside, the scenery, the peace and quiet, the fresh air. Will they still come to see sprawling housing estates with ‘identikit’ homes, an urban environment and traffic jams? I don’t think so. We shouldn’t be destroying our most precious asset – our countryside.”
Meanwhile CPRE Devon’s Dr Phillip Bratby, who has produced his own report on the impact of government housing policy, says, “For many years the government has consistently overestimated the number of new homes needed to meet the requirements of a growing population and reduced household sizes.
“The government is forcing local authorities to plan for far more houses than are actually needed. Despite projections for the future showing lower rates of growth in the number of new households, the government is intent on increasing the rate of housebuilding, with planners claiming they are homes for local people when, clearly, many are not.”
Massive scale of planned extension to town
A scale drawing by Town Crier Alistair Chisholm showing the extent of the housing development proposed for the North Dorchester site, marked in red – at 3,500 homes, half as big again as Poundbury. Set on the downs just outside the protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (OANB), it would destroy the idyllic views across the water meadows, vividly described by Thomas Hardy.