8 January 2021: The Government has announced a U-turn on housing numbers for Spelthorne's new Local Plan
8 January 2021
In October 2020, Spelthorne Council announced that it intended to revise downward the housing needs figure for its new Local Plan, following heavy criticism of the Government's original formula for calculating the number of new homes needed in local authority areas. This was derived from the Government's plans to change the 'standard methodology' that resulted in a lower figure for Spelthorne in a recent consultation on changes to the current planning system. The Council learned on 16 December 2020 that the Government has now decided not to press ahead with the new methodology, which puts Spelthorne back to a higher housing need again.
The formula that was consulted on would have seen Spelthorne's number drop from 606 homes per year to 489, a figure that would mean we could have delivered a better Local Plan with fewer or zero Green Belt sites needed for residential development. To revert to the higher figure takes away this opportunity and leaves the Council with an extremely onerous number to try and meet.
The decision to scrap the revised methodology seems to have stemmed from pressure by other local authorities in the south east who saw their numbers go up, detracting from the Government's aim to 'level up' cities and districts in the north. Whilst other nearby authorities will welcome the news that their figure goes down again, Spelthorne is one of the areas that is back to where it started.
Deputy Leader of the Council and Chair of the Local Plan Task Group, Cllr Jim McIlroy, said: "This announcement comes as a crushing disappointment after we made so much effort to lower our housing number, which we thought we achieved only to see it go up again. We are trying to prepare a Local Plan that our communities will endorse and whilst the 489 homes per year figure was still high we felt it was a significant improvement that meant we could take out many of the largest and most impactful sites that our residents don't want to see developed for housing. We will fight the Government on this and push for what was promised - that housing delivery would be balanced across the country and not concentrated in areas like Spelthorne that are already heavily constrained by Green Belt, waterbodies and pressures on infrastructure. I have written to our MP, Kwasi Kwarteng, and will write to the Secretary of State at the Ministry for Homes, Communities and Local Government."