Following the decision by a planning inspector to allow 100 homes to be built at Wroughton, in the face of fierce local opposition, including South Swindon MP Robert Buckland, Kevin Fisher asks shocking questions of the current planning system.
What I do not understand is why no-one in government is unable see through the stupidity of the current housing policy – the only reason it can be argued that Swindon (or Wiltshire) is not building enough (whatever ‘enough’ means – as it is not defined) houses over the next five years is because DEVELOPERS ARE NOT BUILDING THEM!!!!!
A total of 4,500 homes have outline permission to be built at Wichelstowe in South Swindon, but since 2008 when the first house was built, only 800 have been completed. The land has been assigned for housing and the strategic infrastructure of the site has already been installed by Swindon Borough Council. So, why has only 18 per cent of the total been built in 8 years? Because developers are not building there.
Ridgeway Farm was won on appeal with Taylor Wimpey stating at the Planning Inquiry that they would build all 700 in five years (450 by 2016 – it is in their ‘proof of evidence’ given to the Inspector). That is how they won the appeal. Guess what? They will now take at least TEN years and, by doing so they increase their chances of winning permission to build on their land holding close to Lydiard Park. Are Taylor Wimpey being prosecuted for misleading the Inquiry? Of course not. (Pictured above, the field next to the park which the developers want to build upon).
The current planning system requires Local Planning Authorities to show that there is enough land available for housing development over the next 5 years. But it is the developers that controls the five year housing supply and NOT the local authority. They know they do not want to exceed the arbitrary number that they probably invented in the first place, or they will loose on appeal.
It is not in the interest of developers to build houses fast. By controlling the numbers of houses put onto the market, they control selling prices and therefore their profits. They also get to argue that not enough houses are being built and so they will always win on appeal. (I looked at the data – 81% of Inquiries for projects over 70 houses in 2013/14 found in favour of the developer. The 19% that loose, come back in a year or so and 81% win – that means after two appeals, the developer has a 96% chance of winning. And after three appeals a 99.2% chance of winning).
The side benefits of controlling the build rate is house builders get to bank even more land over and above the land banked from the local plan. That land will also be over and above the land they will bank from the 2035 local plan. The more land they bank early in the process the more valuable the land they now own becomes. House prices go up because they are not meeting demand and therefore building land value increases and, because they have won that land early in the process, they and not the original land owner, make more money from it. And so the cycle continues.
What makes me even more angry about this dictatorial, undemocratic nonsense, is that in the last budget the government GAVE OUR MONEY to developers to encourage them to build more – the insanity of that is beyond comprehension.
I know, I for one will not have anything to do with giving up my time, in the way that I did for the current local plan, in support of the follow-on plan – it is a waste of the community’ time, a waste of our tax money and a waste of the paper it will be printed on.