Telford & Wrekin Council criticised over planning blueprint
A property consultancy firm has criticised Telford & Wrekin Council's planning blueprint for the next 14 years, saying its response to concerns has "sidestepped the big issues".
Berrys in Shrewsbury says the council's proposed way forward on its local plan has disappointed many who hoped for a more positive approach towards making housing more affordable in the borough.
Earlier this year the authority was asked to review several aspects of its local plan, with Government Inspector Michael Hetherington warning that the selection of sites for housing is "flawed".
Telford & Wrekin Council’s local plan covers its aspirations for the economy, jobs, growth and housing development up until 2031.
It identifies sites where certain types of development can take place.
An interim examination of the plan identified concerns over the predicted level of job creation and supporting evidence for the choice of housing sites.
The council has now responded to the inspector's comments.
The authority is proposing to increase its housing number by an extra 86 per year.
The proposal equates to an 11 per cent increase in the number of new homes to be built between 2011 and 2031, from 15,555 to 17,280.
The council says the inspector has not asked the authority to delete all the sites allocated in the plan and only four out of the 17 site allocations were affected by his comments.
The council says the plan continues to identify land to deliver 14,830 homes, which equates to 17 years’ worth of housing land supply, and will keep the situation under review.
But Helen Howie, an expert in local plans at the property consultancy Berrys, said: "The council has sidestepped the big issues.
“This was an opportunity to improve the local plan and widen the choice of housing available to local people.
"Instead the council has done the absolute minimum they think they can get away with.
"It’s very disappointing they have lacked ambition to tackle the big problem of housing affordability.”
She said the council has "massaged" its housing figures.
Ms Howie added: “Its approach prevents competition and squeezes the amount of land available to small builders.
"This will create greater housing affordability problems further down the line.
"The council is sticking its head in the sand by putting off to future years the thorny issue of allocating housing sites that needs to be tackled now.”
Telford & Wrekin Council says the increase in housing requirement also recognises the borough’s strong growth agenda and its potential to attract more inward investment and new jobs.
Councillor Richard Overton, Telford & Wrekin Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for housing, said: “The increase will help to further address the pressing need for more affordable housing to meet local needs across the borough.
“It will also help to maintain our growing reputation as a location of choice for new investors like Magna Cosma, while at the same time not accepting a housing target that is unrealistic or unachievable.”