“Questionable forecasts” threaten the countryside.

Owl has recently received the latest report published by CPRE Devon entitled: “How many Homes? Reviewing the National Housing Need for England”. This follows CPRE Devon’s previous report on Devon’s Housing needs. 

This new report explains why current Government housing targets overestimate the need. For example, the current Government estimate is based on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) forecast made in 2014. Since then the ONS has made two further forecasts: in 2016 and 2018. Each of these has used revised modelling and assumptions on such things as the rate of household formation, based on new information. They forecast a substantially lower future need for new homes than assessed in 2014.

Owl will summarise this report in due course.

Meanwhile Owl spotted this:

Green belt around Coventry at risk from ‘questionable forecast’ by Office for National Statistics

Neil Johnston, Midlands Correspondent | George Greenwood www.thetimes.co.uk 

Ancient woodland that once formed the Forest of Arden is threatened by plans to build thousands of homes based on population forecasts that some deem implausible.

Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands, said that “questionable” forecasts by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) had been used to approve 11,000 new homes on the green belt around Coventry and others next to woods in Warwickshire.

The ONS expects Coventry’s population to rise by 32 per cent between 2011 and 2031, twice as much as Birmingham.

That has led Coventry city council to plan for more than 40,000 new homes and designate swathes of green belt land, which can only be developed in exceptional circumstances.

Although the prediction has changed over time, campaigners believe it is an overestimate. The Keep Our Green Belt Green campaign said that the ONS wrongly assumed foreign students at Warwick and Coventry universities would stay in the area after their studies.

According to the analysis, which four professors have reviewed, jobs have grown by 18 per cent in recent years but this was half that of some nearby towns.

They found births fell by 5 per cent between 2009 and 2017 while in Stratford-upon-Avon, Wolverhampton and Bromsgrove they rose by more than 5 per cent. Car registrations rose at a third of the pace of Birmingham, while A&E attendances grew by 10 per cent compared to 40 per cent in Wolverhampton, and 30 per cent in nearby Worcestershire.

In a letter seen by The Times Mr Street complained to Sir Ian Diamond, the national statistician, that with “two years of actual evidence” the ONS had to take responsibility for projections.

“The overall numbers projected for Coventry appear implausible and may be leading to poor long-term planning decisions,” Mr Street wrote.

Yesterday he said that the plans would cause “a catastrophic loss of precious green spaces”. He added: “Once precious greenbelt land is gone it cannot be replaced. The city council’s local plan is underpinned by questionable ONS population predictions.”

Mr Street said he was especially concerned about plans for 2,500 homes at Kings Hill, a deserted medieval village with three grade II listed buildings surrounded by ancient woodland.

“It means we would be joined with Kenilworth,” Angela Fryer, a nearby resident, said. “We just become one urban sprawl. We’ve lost our green belt at the stroke of the pen.”

Residents are also concerned about plans for 2,500 homes at Keresley, which is overlooked by a neolithic hill fort. There is another proposal for more than 2,000 houses in Meriden Gap between Birmingham and Coventry.

Peter Maddock, who lives in nearby Allesley Green, said: “ I despair at Coventry city council. So many people are trying to tell them how valuable our green areas have been to their physical and mental wellbeing.

“We tell them that the economic assumptions they made in 2017 are no longer valid and that the population growth assumptions are crazy. All again falling on deaf ears. “

Merle Gering, of Keep Our Green Belt Green, warned of huge damage to the West Midlands countryside. “Coventry council is planning to destroy jewels of the countryside needlessly to fill it with houses on the back of absurd claims of  hyperpopulation growth,” he said. “The Office for National Statistics should be ashamed of themselves. They know that it cannot be true that Coventry is growing twice as fast as Birmingham, three times as fast as Warwick, and four times as fast as Stratford-upon-Avon — the places where there actually is high jobs growth and a reason for really rapid population increase.”

The council said its local plan was adopted after “extensive public examination” and that a review could be triggered if there were unexpected changes to the area. It said its plans were based on figures published by the government over which it had no control.

A spokeswoman for the ONS said that ministers had given no sign of doubting the projections. “All of our methods have been explained to be fully transparent and helpful,” she said.