Government algorithm that could see number of new homes in East Devon rocket by 67% panned as ‘ludicrous’

A ‘ludicrous’  government algorithm that could see the number of new homes needing to be built in East Devon rocket by 67 per cent has been opposed. 

Whitehall is set to change the method it uses to calculate the amount of housing each district should provide each year, writes Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Clark.

The September meeting of East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) Strategic Planning Committee saw members unanimously agree to oppose the methodology.

Service lead for planning strategy and development Ed Freeman said in a report: “The East Devon housing requirement is increased by a massive 67 per cent from 928 dwellings to 1,614 new homes per year.

“The increase, by any standards, can only be seen as a staggeringly high increase on top of what was a high level anyway.

“It must be seriously questioned whether the number of houses for East Devon, and surrounding areas, even if credible land could be allocated for their development, will actually be built.

“It must be seriously questioned whether there would be sufficient numbers of people wishing to buy or rent a property in East Devon and surrounding areas to sustain the level of growth the figures imply.

“Short of a massive boon in jobs in our part of England or there being some other compelling reason why people will move here, it is extremely difficult to see anything approaching a market of sufficient size to see these levels of houses built.

“A move to greater home-working may generate greater levels of migration to East Devon, but the long-term levels of migration arising from changes in working practices as a result of the current pandemic are unknown.

“In the case of East Devon, recent research for the council undertaken by the consultancy firm ORS shows that, to meet trend-based needs, there is a need for 757 dwelling a year and to address pent-up demand a need for 59 dwellings a year, giving a total of 816 dwellings per year.

“Deducting this figure from a district total of 1,614 implies that 798 households would need to move in to East Devon each year over and above established trends.

“This level of increase is simply not a credible prediction and much less so a credible policy response when it comes to planning for housing provision.”

Councillor Mike Allen branded the increase as ‘ludicrous’, adding: “There is something fundamentally wrong with the algorithm and it shows no relevance whatsoever to local democracy and reality on the ground.”

Referring to the chaos over exam results, Cllr Ian Thomas added: “It has not been a good summer for the Government and algorithms.

“We are dealing with a half-cooked algorithm and whipping numbers out of the air is not acceptable.”

Cllr Eleanor Rylance added: “If we don’t resist this, we will cover the West End in housing with no transport infrastructure.”

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