Planning expert says Oxfordshire housing need is ‘grossly overstated’

Alan Wenban-Smith

Alan Wenban-Smith

First published in News
Last updated
Banbury Cake: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

PRIVATE planning consultants “grossly overstated” Oxfordshire’s housing need by more than double, a planning expert has claimed.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Oxfordshire’s consultant, Alan Wenban-Smith, says the assessed need to build 100,000 homes in 15 years, was “cobbled together”.

He warns it will give builders “carte blanche in their choice of which sites to develop”.

The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) for Oxfordshire, published in March, recommends councils build 40,000 more homes than their own previous targets by 2031.

Oxfordshire’s four district council leaders all said they wanted to challenge the figure, and the CPRE hopes this report will help them do that.

CPRE Oxfordshire director Helen Marshall said: “The Oxfordshire SHMA is so overstated and so fatally flawed, both in its interpretation of evidence and lack of adherence to government planning guidance policy, as to be unfit for purpose.

“In the light of the report’s findings, CPRE is calling on all local authorities to reject the SHMA and not to use it as a basis for any future planning decisions.”

Mr Wenban-Smith’s report concluded the SHMA is not in accordance with government planning policy, which allows “adjustment of the Government’s published household projections”, not, he said, a “wholesale replacement”.

He also accused the SHMA’s authors, a trio of private planning and economic consultancy firms, of replacing projections for migration in and out of Oxford over 10 years with an estimate “cobbled together” from total population and births and deaths.

He told the Oxford Mail: “They have nearly tripled the official government estimate with no adequate reasons.

“It will have the effect of giving builders carte blanche in their choice of which sites to develop to meet actual levels of demand.”

The SHMA is the government-recommended method for district and city councils to calculate their housing need.

Councils are not obliged to accept the figure produced, but if they calculate their own figure with a different method, they will be required to justify it to a government planning inspector, and explain why their method is superior to the government-recommended method.

Vale of White Horse District Council leader Matt Barber said his scrutiny committee is already looking at potential points on which to challenge the SHMA, and said he would look at the CPRE report for anything that could help.

He said: “If the methodology can be challenged that would be incredibly helpful to us.

“Fundamentally we have the same aims as the CPRE, but they can say what they want, whereas we are a local authority.”

Earlier this month, Wantage and Henley MPs Ed Vaizey and John Howell called on planning minister Nick Boles to “urgently” review the SHMA methodology.

CPRE study conclusions

  • The SHMA is not in accordance with government planning policy.
  • The estimate for Oxford migration was “cobbled together’’.
  • SHMA authors used a pre-credit crunch average household size projection, meaning 7,600 more houses would be needed.
  • The SHMA disregards the effects of the global economic crisis.
  • It uses a projected creation of 85,000 new jobs in 15 years as a direct requirement for 24,000 new homes.
  • It underestimates the percentages of affordable housing which would be necessary.
  • SHMA recommends building 15,000 houses just to get more affordable homes as a by-product.
  • It assumes building more houses lowers prices, whereas the 2004 Baker report found that a 50 per cent national increase in building would price 5,000 homes in the country into the market.
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Comments (7)

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7:56am Thu 22 May 14

Severian says...

Oxfordshire Tories produce dodgy reports to give house builders the chance to do whatever they want with no ability for local people to have any say in it whatsoever? No surprises there then - after all Cherwell DC did this to us over the Bicester "Eco" town.

It's clear that the underlying aim is to make a small number of land owners and developers very very rich, and tough luck to everyone else.
Oxfordshire Tories produce dodgy reports to give house builders the chance to do whatever they want with no ability for local people to have any say in it whatsoever? No surprises there then - after all Cherwell DC did this to us over the Bicester "Eco" town. It's clear that the underlying aim is to make a small number of land owners and developers very very rich, and tough luck to everyone else. Severian
  • Score: 9

8:11am Thu 22 May 14

Mrs Arcanum says...

Severian wrote:
Oxfordshire Tories produce dodgy reports to give house builders the chance to do whatever they want with no ability for local people to have any say in it whatsoever? No surprises there then - after all Cherwell DC did this to us over the Bicester "Eco" town.

It's clear that the underlying aim is to make a small number of land owners and developers very very rich, and tough luck to everyone else.
And yet there is a severe shortage of housing in the South East.

Land is already earmarked for building on greenfield and has been for many years. What does not help is speculative applications for land which no local plan has earmarked for future housing.

Perhaps a 25% annual tax on land with outline planning permission that is not built on might concentrate the minds of land speculators and get some much needed house building going. Although I have a nasty feeling the prospective future cost of road maintenance may be the biggest worry for OCC judging by the appalling state of the roads now.
[quote][p][bold]Severian[/bold] wrote: Oxfordshire Tories produce dodgy reports to give house builders the chance to do whatever they want with no ability for local people to have any say in it whatsoever? No surprises there then - after all Cherwell DC did this to us over the Bicester "Eco" town. It's clear that the underlying aim is to make a small number of land owners and developers very very rich, and tough luck to everyone else.[/p][/quote]And yet there is a severe shortage of housing in the South East. Land is already earmarked for building on greenfield and has been for many years. What does not help is speculative applications for land which no local plan has earmarked for future housing. Perhaps a 25% annual tax on land with outline planning permission that is not built on might concentrate the minds of land speculators and get some much needed house building going. Although I have a nasty feeling the prospective future cost of road maintenance may be the biggest worry for OCC judging by the appalling state of the roads now. Mrs Arcanum
  • Score: 8

9:34am Thu 22 May 14

Whitto says...

And this guy doesn't have a vested interest working for CPRE?

Imagine what his paymasters would have said (or payed) if he had agreed with the SHMA report?
And this guy doesn't have a vested interest working for CPRE? Imagine what his paymasters would have said (or payed) if he had agreed with the SHMA report? Whitto
  • Score: 2

10:02am Thu 22 May 14

Chris Henderson says...

Whitto wrote:
And this guy doesn't have a vested interest working for CPRE?

Imagine what his paymasters would have said (or payed) if he had agreed with the SHMA report?
Every time a professional is employed they have to be paid by someone.
G L Hearn, who were employed at massive expense by the Oxfordshire Councils(ie by us taxpayers) to produce the SHMA spend most of their time representing large developers in planning appeals. They have a massive vested interest in exaggerating the numbers and keeping their big clients happy.
[quote][p][bold]Whitto[/bold] wrote: And this guy doesn't have a vested interest working for CPRE? Imagine what his paymasters would have said (or payed) if he had agreed with the SHMA report?[/p][/quote]Every time a professional is employed they have to be paid by someone. G L Hearn, who were employed at massive expense by the Oxfordshire Councils(ie by us taxpayers) to produce the SHMA spend most of their time representing large developers in planning appeals. They have a massive vested interest in exaggerating the numbers and keeping their big clients happy. Chris Henderson
  • Score: 5

10:31am Thu 22 May 14

snert says...

Severian wrote:
Oxfordshire Tories produce dodgy reports to give house builders the chance to do whatever they want with no ability for local people to have any say in it whatsoever? No surprises there then - after all Cherwell DC did this to us over the Bicester "Eco" town.

It's clear that the underlying aim is to make a small number of land owners and developers very very rich, and tough luck to everyone else.
Wasn't the eco town one of Gordon Brown's "jobbies"? Doesn't that make the eco town one of Labours doings rather than a Tory mess?
[quote][p][bold]Severian[/bold] wrote: Oxfordshire Tories produce dodgy reports to give house builders the chance to do whatever they want with no ability for local people to have any say in it whatsoever? No surprises there then - after all Cherwell DC did this to us over the Bicester "Eco" town. It's clear that the underlying aim is to make a small number of land owners and developers very very rich, and tough luck to everyone else.[/p][/quote]Wasn't the eco town one of Gordon Brown's "jobbies"? Doesn't that make the eco town one of Labours doings rather than a Tory mess? snert
  • Score: 1

6:03pm Thu 22 May 14

GPOWELL says...

They are all missing the point. Oxfordshire doesn't need overpriced homes built by rip-off builders and sold to dodgy landlords, it needs affordable housing for the low paid. Bring back council housing or increase funding to the housing trusts.
They are all missing the point. Oxfordshire doesn't need overpriced homes built by rip-off builders and sold to dodgy landlords, it needs affordable housing for the low paid. Bring back council housing or increase funding to the housing trusts. GPOWELL
  • Score: 5

2:44pm Fri 23 May 14

bobbbbb says...

Paid for by the Campaign to Protect Our Property Wealth. Disgusting.
Paid for by the Campaign to Protect Our Property Wealth. Disgusting. bobbbbb
  • Score: 0

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