East Devon housing numbers – and do they matter anyway given that developers rule OK?

Owl says: does it REALLY matter just how many houses East Devon NEEDS when developers take no notice whatsoever and just build what they want where it is most profitable – knowing that the council will just be penalised by being told to … build more houses … anywhere?  Time to stop this fantasy numbers game?

“East Devon Housing numbers, the debate continues!

The debate regarding the number of homes required to be built in East Devon and the enormous gap between the district low earnings but high house prices will be discussed shortly at a meeting at East Devon District Council

Following a meeting in October held by the Devon branch of the CPRE, (the Campaign for the protection of Rural England,) when they published a document:

“Devon Housing Needs Evidence”

This document questioned the excessive amount of house building within the county which is driven by the Government desire to build over 300,000 Houses per year.

Following the meeting of the CPRE a motion was put forward by the Independent group of councillors at last month’s Full Council meeting which expressed their deep reservations at the government`s requirements for future excessive housing delivery within East Devon.

It was agreed that Councillors will be debate the issue at theirStrategic Development Committee on Tuesday 27th Nov at the Knowle Sidmouth at 10am.

  The committee will be considering the Independents groups proposal for setting up a Member workshop” and an independent study to consider the specific housing needs of all groups within the community and how these needs make up the overall housing need for the area.

They are also being asked to approve a draft for a proposedresponse to the Government consultation on housing needssuggesting a revised approach to determine housing numbers.

The latest East Devon requirement for homes to be built in 2018, using the Government`s current methodology, is 698 “household projections” with a “workplace affordability ratio” of 9.84 and an affordability uplift of 37% to show an estimated housing needed of 953.

The uplifts are added to the base figure known as a Workplace Affordability” to cover the districts aspirations of future workplace/commercial provisions, plus a percentage increase of 37% known as the “affordability gap” Whilst in some UK locations the employment or commercial growth is expected to diminish East Devon economy is expected to grow.

The affordability percentage figure is used to inflate house building projections where there is a substantial gap between the areas average earnings and the house prices in the locality. The ratio in East Devon between average house prices and isover 9 times against the local average household income. The theory behind this government thinking is the more houses built in areas of high unaffordability, will result in a reduction in house prices and therefore reduce the affordable gap, thus helping the younger generations now unable to purchase their first homes.

The report to Council says there is no apparent statistical or financial assessment behind these uplifting percentages toindicate any impact they may have on house prices. They appear be numbers that have no clear or articulated logic behind them.

The report also explains that Government own calculations on the nationalneed assessment numbers fell from 269,000 in 2017 homes per year to 213,000 in 2018 but this outcome is clearly at odds with the Government`s stated requirement ofmore than 300,000 homes per year by the mid-2020s!

The report also proposes a response to the Government regarding these uplift figures.

We express concerns around the robustness and more importantly the justification that underlies the affordability uplift calculation that also features in the standard methodology. We would accept that there is a need to uplift numbers to address affordable housing needs but the basis for the current uplift calculator is unclear.

We would reiterate that the critical issue in any needs assessment is that any housing needs figure generated is done so through a process of logical assessment and evaluation and can be justified by robust evidence.

The report to Council full recommendations are:

1. Members to note the motion on future housing provision inEast Devon from the Council meeting of 24th October 2018.

2. That an independent study be commissioned to consider the specific housing needs of all groups within the community and how these needs make up the overall housing need for the area.

a. That the committee recommend to Council that a budget of up to £30,000 be set aside to meet the costs of the study.
b. That a Member workshop be set up in the new year toconsider the housing needs study and the overall housing need.
2. Approve the proposed responses to the Governmentconsultation on a proposed revised approach to determining housing numbers.

The full agenda can be seen on the EDDC website.


Seaton heritage building – no stay of execution

(photos: Midweek Herald)

Word reaches Owl that, despite a last-minute attempt by Seaton Town Council to delay the auction of the Seaton beach searchlight building until alternative ideas for its use can be explored, EDDC CEO Mark Williams has decided it will go ahead to public auction tomorrow.


Question marks over the Greater Exeter Strategic Plans?

The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan seems not to be going to plan for the team!

Teignbridge, Mid Devon and East Devon District Councils in Feb 2017 teamed up with Exeter City Council to produce a “Greater Exeter Strategic Plan” (GESP). Recently they announced a delay to the ambitious plans which now puts the completion date to around 2022.

It was stated the delay was because of the substantial number of sites coming forward for consideration together with the complexities of the funding gap for infrastructure projects.


Devon councils and the Government have underinvested the roads and rail network in this area except for the passing through traffic for the last 60 years. Only the artery roads of the M5, A38, A30 and A361 were constructed and hardly any improvement to rail services with only “quick fix” solutions to storm events at Cowley Bridge and Dawlish.

Large housing development in Exeter, Exminster and Exmouth in the 1970s was encouraged with new roads promised for Exminster to the centre of Exeter and a dual carriageway to Exmouth. The houses were built but then funding withdrawn!

The consequences of the underinvestment throughout the area, have heavily impacted Exeter now recognised as one of the worst congested cities in the UK.

The plan was to build substantial housing providing a levy which would help fund the urgently needed infrastructure, with extra funding being provided from government in exchange for delivering extra housing numbers over the planned housing numbers

Housing Numbers

But now there are question marks over the housing numbers, with the Government deciding to calculate the required “build out” numbers for housing rather than each individual authority calculating their own housing needs.

East Devon’s requirement is to build 844 per year. This is under East Devon’s own Local Plan target figure of 950 each year up to 2031.

This week the Devon section of CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) announced they are challenging all of Devon’s Planning Authorities housing requirement figures with a 60-page document by the leading planning consultants Opinion Research Services.

They are also challenging the way the Government arrive at their figures and conclude that:

The overall housing need for Devon produced by the Government standard methodology remains an over estimate.

Their report concludes that far too many homes are being planned and claim that the combined Devon Local Plan Housing Target is overstated by at least 25% with 1500 houses too many each year.

In the case of East Devon, the percentage is an estimated oversupply of 40% of homes required against the Local Plan Target of 950 suggesting a required buildout figure of only 570 homes per year.

There is a massive funding gap for the GESP area infrastructure projects. East Devon’s underfunding gap alone is around £70M just to provide for what is needed for their current plan!

The GESP aspiration was to approach the government with a proposal to build even more houses in the GESP rural areas (as Exeter is nearly full) and to ask for extra funding to pay for the extra infrastructure requirements for Exeter.

On top of road and rail improvements, health, education and social care investment which are also critically underfunded the Council Leaders recently proposed a £20M plus Music Arena to hold 20,000 people to be included in these infrastructure requirements.

However last week the government announced plans to grant 10 cities throughout England extra multimillion funds to assist in Infrastructure projects, unfortunately Exeter is not Included.

So, the Housing numbers are now being questioned and the extra government funding seems not to be forthcoming.

East Devon’s problem of accommodating extra housing

Although in the last 10 years East Devon has outperformed all other Local Authorities except Plymouth to build new houses (8169 units), the GESP proposal hopes to build substantially more in this area.

However East Devon is restricted with 2/3 of East Devon being a special area of designation “Area of Outstanding Natural of Beauty.” where development is strictly controlled.

Therefore, the area of search known as the “Exton to Honiton Arc” is restricted into the small area of East Devon that is not restricted by the AONB. Already there is the developing town of Cranbrook, and Exeter Airport, but this is where the GESP planners propose to develop.

Already the rural communities of Clyst St Mary, Feniton, West Hill, Woodbury and the town of Ottery St Mary have questioned the emerging GESP strategy for even more housing. The very reason why people migrate to this area is its rural nature and beautiful countryside. They claim this will be lost with mass development of the scale that the GESP Planners suggest.

The GESP proposals future for East Devon

• The Authorities’ own estimated build out figures and the Government own figures are questionable and being challenged.

• The massive Infrastructure costs to help deliver extra housing and ease congestion are not being supported by recent Government grants.

• There is only a small area of East Devon that can be developed which is not supported by the local communities.

Is the GESP deliverable, is all this extra housing needed in this area especially this small area of East Devon?

The CPRE report published this week claims:
“The current local plans are planning far too many homes.”