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An Open Letter from Dacorum Lib Dems to Robert Jenrick, Minister for HC&LG, regarding Imposed Housing Targets

February 2, 2021 9:06 AM

An Open Letter from Dacorum Liberal Democrats to Robert Jenrick.
Planning Jenrick

Rt Hon Robert Jenrick

Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government

2 Marsham Street

London

SW1P 4DF

31st January 2020

Dear Minister

Initially we welcomed your Ministry's publication on 16th December 2020 Government response to the local housing need proposals in "changes to the current planning system", which announced among other things:

  • the abandonment the application of the 'mutant algorithm' to the standard method for determining local authorities' house building targets;
  • acknowledgement that "…in some places the numbers proposed by the standard method [aka mutant algorithm] pose a risk to protected areas and Green Belt" and
  • the application of "a 35% uplift to the post-cap number generated by the standard method to Greater London and the local authorities which contain the largest proportion of the other 19 most populated cities and urban centres in England."

We would like, however, to highlight it is perverse that the Ministry's has chosen to apply the new algorithm to 2014 Office of National Statistics Data (ONS) data rather than the more recent 2018 ONS data. Not only is it illogical to use historic data, there is no consideration of the effects that Covid and Brexit have had on levels of housing need.

Furthermore, application of the new algorithm is inconsistent in delivery of the supposed intentions listed above in a number of ways:

  • How does the new Standard Method take pressure off Green Belt around London when 42% of Local Authorities with significant amounts of London's Green Belt have increased housing targets since the 16th December announcement by MHCLG (please see the map alongside)?
  • Camden, Kensington and Westminster all see reduced targets of ≥50%. Yet Hertfordshire's target increases by 19%. How is this consistent with the MHCLG's agenda of increasing urban development using premises freed up by the reduction of commuting and the demise of retail as a result of Covid?
  • Under the new Standard Method 70% of the latest housing targets are south of a line from the Wash to the Severn. How is the Government's 'Levelling Up' agenda served by continuing to increase development in Southern England and further drawing people into commuter belt areas, such as Dacorum Borough Council?
  • Does the latest Standard Method really implement an uplift of housing target to the twenty most populous urban areas of the UK and capitalise on city centre opportunities created by Covid when 35% of the 20 largest urban areas have seen an unchanged or reduced target as a result of the new standard method announced on 16th December?
  • Dacorum's increased target of 1.023 is higher than that for five of England's 20 largest urban areas: Hull, Stoke, Plymouth, Reading & Wolverhampton. Is this proportionate for an area without a fully-functioning hospital, a large performing arts venue or an inter-city train service (ie lacking sufficient infrastructure)?

We call on MHCLG to use the latest ONS data as being the most effective way of rectifying many of the imbalances and perversities listed and thereby reduce pressure on the Metropolitan Green Belt that many districts face as a result of the latest approach.

We look forward to hearing your response

Yours sincerely,

Cllr William Allen

(on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Group of Dacorum Borough Council)

Cc Andrew Williams (Leader, DBC); Claire Hamilton (CEO, DBC); Tim Farron MP; Daisy Cooper MP; Sir Mike Penning MP; Gagan Mohindra MP; press and media