We constantly read, in the press and on social media, complaints about local “open spaces” being built on and “nowhere for our children to play on”.
At the same time there are also regular complaints about the length of the housing waiting lists, the lack of affordable housing and overcrowding in houses.
The various discussions show how difficult it is for Governments, Councils and house builders/developers to get the balance right.
Only a few years ago everyone was building apartments to meet a perceived need. That was great at maximising housing density but it looks as though that particular need has been more than adequately met in our area.
So what happens next?
Local authorities are required to produce an “Allocations and Sustainable Development Local Plan” which “identifies where new housing, employment and other significant development will be placed.”
St Helens Council, among others, published their latest “Interim Housing land position statement” in June 2013.
The Council had set a target of 570 new builds per year, starting 2003/2004.
The crisis in house building has meant that the target of 5700 new builds in the 10 years since 2003/2004 has been missed by around 1200.
St Helens Council’s “Available Land Report” (details can be found on the Council web site) lists all the land allocated to housing and the dates it will/may be available and the information is projected in 5 year slots.
The next 5 years (2012/2013 – 2016/2017) shows that the Borough of St Helens has sufficient land available to meet all the new build requirements (units). Whether they are in the required area is another matter.
However the following 5 years (to 2021/22) shows a lack of building land equivalent to over 550 units and, by year 15 (2026/27) this deficit is over 2000 units.
Obviously such things as space available, density of housing and changing needs will affect any decisions but it is clear that to meet housing unit targets more land is required. Either by using existing brownfield sites, change of use of commercial space to domestic (converting unused shops back to domestic housing) etc.
A Council’s first option is to identify potential space not currently on their list of land allocated to housing. To this end St Helens Council have recently advertised a “Call for Sites” i.e. asking people to highlight possible space (garage sites, large gardens etc). The Council will then consider all the suggestions to see which are practical and see how much of the gap is filled.
Worryingly Council’s are also required to review the green belt boundaries and St Helen’s are consulting on the “methodology” for the review.
The same process is also being considered by other local authorities..
So what does the future hold for us – well – we will try and keep you informed.
Watch this space for updates.