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Unaffordable housing madness – a broken planning system

David Hook
By David Hook

Norfolk will have 140,000 new homes by 2036, built mostly on greenfield sites. Only a fraction will be affordable – and that indicates a broken planning system says David Hook.

CPRE Norfolk is supportive of new housing when it addresses real needs and when it is built in the right locations, preferably on Brownfield sites. We are especially keen to see an increase in the provision of affordable housing. The current planning system fails to deliver these outcomes.

The most recent Annual Monitoring Reports produced by our District Councils reveal that on average only 13% of new houses are affordable. Within current rules developers are able to reduce the amount of affordable properties they build once planning permission has been granted. This should not be acceptable practice.

Central government requires local authorities to constantly increase the amount of land that is allocated for new housing without ensuring that existing allocations are developed first. This broken system means that in Norfolk, within current and emerging plans (2001-2036), enough land will be allocated for over 140,000 extra houses. This unprecedented surge in house building could cause the population of Norfolk to increase by more than 320,000 people (based on average UK household size in 2011) – equivalent to building another one and a half Greater Norwich’s in just over a third of a century.

Development on this scale poses the greatest possible threat to our county because most of the new building will take place on Greenfield sites. Large tracts of countryside and valuable agricultural land will be lost, boundaries between settlements will become blurred, traffic congestion will increase enormously and the tranquillity and attractiveness of much of our landscape will be severely degraded.

An increasing number of towns and villages will see their historic character swamped by large housing estates and we will suffer higher levels of air pollution.

CPRE Norfolk is campaigning to bring some common sense to this madness. We cannot alter what has already happened, but, with the support of the people and parish councils of Norfolk, we can influence decisions about how much extra land is allocated for housing in emerging plans currently being prepared by our local authorities.

Put simply, we do not consider that any new sites included in these plans should be built on until the huge number of currently available, unused site allocations in existing plans are developed.

A number of our local authorities already have enough sites, at current rates of building, to last for over 25 years. It is a scandal, in these circumstances, that new Greenfield sites are even being considered for development.

Excessive land allocations and housing targets which merely increase the number of Greenfield sites on which development can take place without ensuring the delivery of affordable homes is not good policy. These targets can only be achieved by severely degrading the features that make Norfolk so special.

Our Vision for Norfolk is a much more measured approach to new growth which would enhance its most precious assets and not be achieved at their expense.

This article appeared in the February 2018 edition of the Norfolk Magazine.


A housing development in Norfolk