Health and Safety Executive criticises Hart Council

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Logo

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Logo

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has criticised Hart District Council for not clearly marking on a map the Major Accident Hazard pipelines that pass through the district.

Regular readers will recall that the Master Plan for the proposed new settlement at Murrell Green does not refer at all to the high pressure gas main that runs through the site.

Murrell Green high pressure gas main

Murrell Green development with high pressure gas pipeline

We alerted the HSE to this and invited them to comment on the Draft Local Plan that is currently out for consultation. They have written to Hart Council and identified two further potential issues:

We have concluded that there is the potential for land allocated in your plan to encroach on consultations zones.  The land allocations that could be effected (sic) are as follows

Map 30 – Murrell Green (Proposed Strategic Housing-led Development Policies SC1-SC4)

This allocation encroaches on the Southern Gas Networks High Pressure Pipeline – HSE Reference: 7067 Gaston Wood/Murrell Green(PO65)

It also has the possibility to encroach on the Southern Gas Networks High Pressure Pipeline – HSE Reference 7069 Crockmore Farm/Bramshill(P067)

Map 7 – Eversley Centre – SC5

This allocation has the possibility to encroach on the Southern Gas Networks High Pressure Pipeline – HSE Reference 7083 Bramshill/The Devil’s Highway(P086)

The HSE then go on to spell out their recommendations for how local authorities should identify such hazards in their Local Plans (emphasis ours)

Identifying Consultation Zones in Local Plans

HSE recommends that where there are major hazard establishments and MAHPs within the area of your local plan, that you mark the associated consultation zones on a map. This is an effective way to identify the development proposals that could encroach on consultation zones, and the extent of any encroachment that could occur. The proposal maps in site allocation development planning documents may be suitable for presenting this information. We particularly recommend marking the zones associated with any MAHPs, and HSE advises that you contact the pipeline operator for up-to-date information on pipeline location, as pipelines can be diverted by operators from notified routes. Most incidents involving damage to buried pipelines occur because third parties are not aware of their presence.

Clearly Hart Council has failed to follow Health and Safety Executive Guidelines.

The full letter from the HSE can be found here.

Hart Council launches Local Plan consultation

Hart District Council Logo

Hart Council has launched a Regulation 18 consultation into the draft Local Plan. The consultation will be open until 5pm on 9 June 2017.

Drop in sessions will be running at the following dates and locations:

  • Tuesday 2 May – 2pm to 8pm – Hook Community Centre, RG27 9NN
  • Wednesday 3 May – 2pm to 8pm – The Harlington Centre, Fleet, GU51 4BY
  • Monday 8 May – 2pm to 8pm – Victoria Hall, Hartley Wintney, RG27 8RE
  • Wednesday 10 May – 2pm to 8pm – The Tythings, Yateley, GU46 7RP
  • Thursday 11 May – 2pm to 8pm – Ridley Hall, South Warnborough, RG29 1RQ
  • Monday 15 May – 4.30pm to 8pm – Hawley Leisure Centre, GU17 9BW

The consultation materials can be found here.

Once we have had chance to absorb all the materials, we will be posting our advice on how to respond to the consultation.

Does High Pressure Gas Main scupper Murrell Green proposals?

Murrell Green High Pressure Gas Main

Murrell Green High Pressure Gas Main

As regular readers will know, as part of the Hart Local Plan, the local council is proposing a new settlement at Murrell Green. However, they don’t seem to have taken the high pressure gas main that runs through the site into account in their planning.

The site appraisal makes no mention of the gas main. However, the schematic above, obtained from SGN, who manage the gas mains in this area, shows a high pressure gas main, of 24″ diameter. It is described by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as a Major Accident Hazard Pipeline. It appears to cut a swathe through the proposed housing and the site of the proposed school shown in the schematic below.

Murrell Green high pressure gas main

Murrell Green development with high pressure gas pipeline

After reviewing the HSE guidelines we have come to the conclusion that major housing and a school will not be allowed to be built within approximately 100m of the pipeline. This would put a major question mark over the viability of the proposed scheme.

Murrell Green High Pressure Gas Main size 24"

Murrell Green Gas Pipeline size 24″

Full analysis below. This new information comes on top of the environmental, infrastructure and coalescence issues we raised here before.

We have had a response from Hart Council:

Head of Planning at East Hants, confirms that that the pipeline was considered alongside a number of other constraints to development. It is a known constraint which will need to be taken in to account in any master plan for the new settlement along side other constraints which have been identified in the consideration of all the sites through the SHLAA process and after. It is not however seen as any form of ‘show stopper’.

It does seem odd that planning to build a school and significant housing right on top of a 24″ high pressure gas main is not considered a ‘show-stopper’. However, we can find no mention of the pipeline in the latest assessment of rural sites covering SHL136, 167 and 186.

HSE guidelines on building near gas pipelines

The HSE has special guidelines for planning near to such installations.

First, various zones around the pipeline are established. An inner, middle and outer zone.

Consultation Distance for pipelines

We don’t know the exact size of the zones for the Murrell Green pipeline, but by way of example, the zones at Upchurch were established as:

  • Inner Zone: 9m
  • Middle Zone: 95m
  • Outer zone: 110m

According to the letter from SGN, the inner zone for the Murrell Green pipeline is 8m.

SGN Letter regarding Murrell Green High Pressure Gas Main

SGN Letter regarding Murrell Green High Pressure Gas Main

So, it is reasonable to assume the middle and outer zones will be roughly the same as those at Upchurch.

The next stage is to look at the type of development and assign a sensitivity. Housing developments over 30 units are assigned level 3.

Housing Sensitivity to gas pipelines

Housing Sensitivity

Schools, with a development size of more than 1.4Ha are assigned a sensitivity of 4.

School sensitivity zones

School sensitivity

Then a decision on whether development of various sensitivities is allowed in the various zones is made according to a matrix:

PAHDI Sensitivity and decision matrix

PAHDI Sensitivity and decision matrix

It is clear that major housing would not be allowed in the Middle Zone and a large school would not even be allowed in the Outer Zone.

Conclusion about Murrell Green High Pressure Gas Main

Our conclusion from this is that the school would not be allowed within around 100m of the pipeline, and so would have to be moved from the proposed position. It is highly likely housing would not be allowed within about 90m of the pipeline. This would create a no-go zone right through the centre of the proposed development and probably render it unviable.

Time to think again Hart Council.

 

Hartland Village Planning application submitted by St Edward homes

Hartland Village (Pyestock) Master Plan

Hartland Village (Pyestock) Master Plan

A planning application for Hartland Village has been submitted by St Edward Homes.

Details can be found at Hart’s public access system using reference 17/00471/OUT.

We are broadly supportive of this application, but would echo a number of the objections that have been made:

  1. There should be greater provision for affordable homes. The application is for 1,500 new homes in total. Provision has been made for 195 social rented units and 105 intermediate units. Given the council has increased our housing allocation to 10,000 on the basis of needing more affordable housing, the application should not go ahead unless at least 600 units are affordable or starter homes.
  2. There should be more provision for cycling and walking to Fleet station and the town centre. It would be helpful if a new bus service was also provided, perhaps along the lines of the Hartley Wintney Community bus.
  3. More investment will be required in the local road network to make this development work. We would suggest Kennels Lane needs a significant upgrade.
  4. Specific provision needs to be made for a local health centre and dental practice.
  5. We need a definitive answer from Hampshire County Council on whether a new secondary school is required in Hart or not. If so, it should be provided on this site, which is where the bulk of new children will live.
  6. As is the case with any new development in Hart, the mainline train route to London needs to be significantly upgraded, including stations and parking.

We would urge everyone to make their voice heard in this important consultation.

Where is the draft Hart Local Plan?

Hart Local Plan - Keep Calm and Wait until 26 April

Hart Local Plan – Keep Calm and Wait until 26 April

Regular readers maybe wondering what has happened to the Hart Local Plan. On February 9th, Hart Cabinet agreed to a spatial strategy as part of the draft Local Plan that was due to go out to consultation in March. Obviously, there have been further delays. This is what we now understand to be the position:

Hart Local Plan timetable

The draft local plan will be released 26 April for a six-week Reg 18 consultation period after a briefing session with Parish Councillors on the 25th. There will be roadshows at the main settlements. Every house in the district will receive an A5 leaflet advising them of the consultation.

The Reg 19 process will follow in about November with submission of the full plan to the Secretary of State in mid-February 2018. All responses during the Reg 18 will be made public including the names of the individuals but with no contact details.

Hart Local Plan Headlines

Hart Council have decided to build 10,185 houses up to 2032 of which around 50% have already been built or granted permission. Please note that this number is far higher than 8,022 target the recently published Strategic Housing Market Assessment and more than double the requirement generated from demographic change. The numbers are now correct as of 31 January 17 and include all office conversions which have been approved.

Housing Numbers by area

  • Fleet 200 – mostly through office redevelopment
  • Hook was 200 now 10 from office redevelopment plus another 87. However, developers may chance their arm again with Owens Farm (750), and of course around half the Murrell Green site is in Hook Parish.
  • Sun Park 320
  • Hartland Park (Pyestock) 1500. Fleet town council have apparently made the point that the site offers only 20% affordable homes and the density per hectare is up to 97 in places which is equivalent to city centre densities which is of concern to them. OUr view would be to make the most of available brownfield sites.
  • Murrell Green 1800 but with challenges. There are 4 promoters and it will be some 3 to 4 years before planning permission is approved. It includes the site for a secondary school but there won’t be enough developer contributions to pay for it. New school funding rules mean that Hampshire can’t pay for it either.  It’ll probably be an Academy at a cost of circa £36 million. So we get a site for a school, but no money.
  • Crondall 66
  • Crookham Village 100 + 64 predominantly the care village
  • Eversley 124 on two sites
  • Heckfield 86
  • Long Sutton 10
  • Odiham 119 as per NP
  • Hartley Wintney 0. It seems odd that HW’s Neighbourhood Plan will be ignored. It should be noted that Murrell Green directly abuts Hartley Wintney Parish and about half of the proposed Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) development is in HW parish.
  • South Warnborough 34 on two sites
  • Yateley 88
  • An additional 50 via rural exceptions and a further 290 from windfall.
  • Interestingly, no mention of Winchfield, or their Neighbourhood Plan, but roughly half of Murrell Green is in Winchfield Parish.
  • Apparently, Bramshill will be very difficult to develop because of all the complications with the Grade 1 listed site.

Other news

Apparently East Hants have done such a stellar job on the Local Plan, the Planning Policy team is now back in house at Hart, reduced in size from 8 to 2.

There is a risk that developers will continue to pursue Pale Lane and take it to appeal before the Local Plan is adopted.

We await the results of the Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) appeal in June.

Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan adopted

Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan adopted

Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan adopted by Hart District Council

The Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan was formally adopted by Hart District Council at their meeting last night.

Key points in the plan are shown below:

Small scale housing development

Housing is seen by the local community as best delivered by means of the following types of development:
A number of sensitive developments of up to seven houses on existing residential land, even where this may be beyond the current settlement boundaries but otherwise meet Hart DC and NPPF criteria and the policies in this Plan.

On other Brownfield sites in Winchfield, where identified, that meet Hart DC and NPPF criteria and the policies in this Plan. This would replicate the previous successful brownfield site regeneration of the former Winchfield Station Goods Yard.

One or two new unobtrusive developments of a similar size, scale and sensitive location to the existing successfully integrated Beauclerk Green (brownfield site) development, built in 1997. Such new development should not exceed the density of Beauclerk Green as it stands today.

This would seem to rule out vast new housing estates such as those proposed in the centre of Winchfield and in Murrell Green (much of which is in Winchfield Parish). However, the Hart Local Plan would take precedence over the Neighbourhood Plan.

Size and location of housing

Policy A1: Size and Location of New Developments

As a general principle new housing developments should respect the existing scale of the village and should not result in a new development of more than seven homes.

As an exception, a new housing development in excess of seven homes will be considered if on a carefully chosen site, similar in size and density to Beauclerk Green, respecting existing settlements and current local gaps which prevent coalescence with neighbouring villages.

Appropriate redevelopment of brownfield sites will be supported in preference to greenfield sites. The appropriate redevelopment of disused buildings will be supported.

Developers will be required to demonstrate that there is adequate water supply, waste water capacity and surface water drainage both on and off the site to serve the development and that it would not lead to problems for existing or new users. In some circumstances it may be necessary for developers to fund studies to ascertain whether the proposed development will lead to overloading of existing water and/or waste water infrastructure.

Drainage on the site must maintain separation of foul and surface flows.

In the event that there is a water supply, waste water capacity and surface water drainage infrastructure capacity constraint the developers will be required to identify the appropriate improvements that are required and how they will be delivered.

However, the detailed size and location of housing policy adds a further barrier to large scale development. Policies A2 and A5 provide for generous parking and low density housing.

The full Neighbourhood Plan can be downloaded below.

Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan

Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan Adopted Version

 

Hart Tories claim victory despite abject failure

Hart Tories (NE Hampshire Conservatives) claim victory despite abject failure

Hart Tories (NE Hampshire Conservatives) claim victory form abject failure

North East Hampshire Conservatives have managed to claim victory, despite their abject failure to plan for a sensible amount of housing for Hart District.

On Thursday, the Conservative led Hart Cabinet agreed to plan for more than 10,000 houses. This is many more than is required to meet the needs of Hart residents. Yet, because they have managed to avoid putting those houses near Fleet, they claim it as some sort of victory. They show no concern for Hart residents who live in the more rural areas.

Apparently, the Hart Tories are concerned about over-development, transport, traffic, education, loss of green space and the impact of development on existing infrastructure. But only in the immediate area around Fleet. The rest of us will just have to suffer.

To recap, to meet the demographic projections for Hart residents and meet the needs of those who can’t get on the housing ladder, we need to build 6,000-6,500 new dwellings. Anything over and above that requires massive in-migration to Hart. That is, massive in-migration of people whose housing needs are supposed to be met elsewhere. The SHMA also assumes that most of these people will work outside the district, putting even further pressure on local infrastructure.

Hart is planning for more than twice the demographic projections. They are not alone, other nearby districts are planning for 42% more houses than the demographic projections require.

However, their so-called victory may be short lived. The Grove Farm application is being appealed by the developers. The Planning Committee also has to make a decision about Pale Lane soon. It seems likely that they will turn it down. However, it seems equally likely the developer will appeal that decision too. With no Local Plan, out of date policies and a questionable 5-year land supply, the inspector may well grant permission for both these sites.

The only sensible way out of this, is to remove the extra 2,000 houses they voted through on Thursday and demonstrate that the houses are not required.

Hart Cabinet sell us down the river as they plan for 10,000 houses

Hart Cabinet sell us down the river by planning for far more houses than we need

Hart Cabinet plan for houses we don’t need

Hart Cabinet sold us down the river on Thursday night as they voted to plan for 10,000 houses to be built in Hart District in the period up to 2032.

Aside from vote on the paper some other interesting information was disclosed on a number of subjects:

  • Hart Cabinet vote on the 10,000 houses?
  • Do we need a secondary school?
  • Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) update
  • Hart Cabinet and Council politics

Hart Cabinet vote on the 10,000 houses?

Well, the short answer is we don’t. Our statement was received without challenge and was described as “informed” by the joint Chief Executive. There really is no answer to the points about double counting, nor the extra 1,200 houses on top of the alleged additional affordable housing requirement. To his credit, Ken Crookes asked some challenging questions. He didn’t really receive satisfactory answers.

The cabinet chose to plan for the extra 2,000 houses on top of those set out in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), even though Ken abstained.

The plan was supported by two cabinet members from Hook. They apparently favour a new settlement that will deliver more houses in Hook Parish. But they vehemently oppose the proposed new development to the west of Hook, that is outside the Thames Valley Heath SPA zone of influence.

There is a risk that Hart will no longer have a five year land supply, now it has agreed an uplift to 10,000 houses. Apparently, officers are working on a new document.

The leader and joint chief executive will now proceed to produce a draft Local Plan. A new consultation will be held on this draft will begin some time in March.

Do we need a new secondary school?

One of the justifications for the new settlement at Murrell Green is that the district needs a new secondary school. You may recall that the council voted on a resolution to include a secondary school in the Local Plan.

However, in his statement to cabinet, the joint chief executive said that although:

Hampshire County Council (HCC) welcome the principle of a new school site, the scale of growth envisaged in the Local Plan is not one that would require the delivery a new school in the planning period.

HCC is responsible for planning school places. But HCC is not responsible for delivering new schools as they will now be delivered as free schools, outside local authority control.

Apparently, Hart has also been offered secondary schools by the developers of Winchfield, West of Hook and Rye Common.

In other words, Hart has acted outside its responsibilities in resolving to deliver a site for a school and the authority responsible for planning school places don’t believe we need a new school. So, we are creating a new settlement to create capacity for houses we don’t need and a school we don’t need either.

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) update

In conversation we found out more about the Grove Farm application. The developer has now appealed this case on the grounds of non-determination.

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) screwing up Hart Planning since 2004

To re-cap, the Community Campaign Hart (CCH) chair the planning committee and failed to make a decision on the application at last December’s planning meeting. The council officers has recommended approval.

Hart is going to fight the appeal, probably on the grounds of wishing to maintain the Local Gap between Fleet and Crookham Village.

If Hart does lose its five year land supply, then this will make things difficult at appeal.

Apparently, the risk of losing £1.6m of New Homes Bonus has been mitigated because the indications from Government are that they are no longer going to push through those proposals.

However, there is still a significant risk that Hart will lose this appeal. The expectation is the appeal inquiry will be held in June, with a decision in August.

Hart Cabinet and Council Politics

We have now heard from several sources that one of the reasons Hart Cabinet appears to be so dysfunctional is that the ruling Conservative Party fears a vote of no confidence over the summer. This would entail CCH bidding to oust the Tories, presumably to be replaced by some sort of CCH/Lib Dem coalition. Maybe, the CCH coup is dependent upon the outcome of the Grove Farm appeal.

So, it appears as though we are planning for the extra houses to deliver a new settlement and secondary school we don’t need to appease CCH, who would prefer the new settlement at Winchfield.

It does seem very odd that we are having a new settlement forced upon us by dysfunctional politics.

 

 

Statement to Hart Cabinet

Hart District Council and Hart Cabinet Offices, We Heart Hart. We Love Hart

Statement to Hart Cabinet

The crucial Hart Cabinet meeting to decide the spatial strategy to be incorporated in the forthcoming consultation on the Hart Local Plan will be held tonight at 8pm.

Public participation is allowed and we have been allowed to speak. A copy of our prepared statement is shown below. Please do come along and watch the debate.

Statement to Hart Cabinet 9 February 2017

Thank you for allowing me to speak.

This is an important time for Hart – you are setting out a strategy that will impact the quality of life of Hart residents for many years to come, so it is important you do the best job you can.

Hart Council is in a perilous position and facing the threat of losing around £2m of NHB if the Local Plan is not in place on time and of course the threat of many speculative planning applications. So, it is right that you are risk averse at this time.

However, I would like to use this statement to persuade you to change direction.

I would like you to focus on reducing the housing target of 10,000 by removing the unnecessary uplift of 2,000 extra houses on top of the SHMA target of ~8,000.

The SHMA starts with the ONS population and household projections. It says the “the household projections… are statistically robust and are based on nationally consistent assumptions”. They take account of international migration and migration between districts.

On their own, these projections would point to a need for around 5,300 houses over the planning period. If, however, the SHMA used the more up to date 2014-based figures, the housing need would fall to around 4,500, compared to the 10,000 you are proposing to build.

That’s right, the latest demographic projections point to a need that is less than half of that you are proposing.

However, it is probably right that the housing target should be inflated a little to cater for what is termed suppressed household formation and concealed households.

The SHMA has done this by firstly increasing Hart’s target up to around 6,100 new dwellings to cater for households that are termed ‘can’t rent, can’t buy’ and those who can rent but can’t buy.

Secondly, it then makes a further increase of around 500 affordable homes. This brings the total target to around 6,600.

To my mind 6-6,500 houses would be reasonable overall that would mean we could meet the rest of the target from brownfield sites alone.

To emphasise: The SHMA has met the demographic need and already takes account of suppressed household formation, concealed households and affordable housing.

The SHMA then goes on to add a further 1,400 houses for economic growth, bringing the overall total to 8,000.

This ‘economic growth uplift’ does by definition mean that you are planning for additional inward migration to Hart, people whose needs are supposed to be met elsewhere. Not only that, the SHMA assumes many of these people will also work outside the district and thus put increasing pressure on the creaking transport infrastructure. This is not sustainable development.

Yet, you are now proposing to add a further 2,000 houses to the total to meet extra questionable affordable housing needs.

However, we have already established the SHMA itself has already taken account of the affordable requirement, so this extra 2,000 is double counting.  It will require us concreting over our green fields to meet non-existent housing needs. This is unsustainable over-development.

We wouldn’t need the new Murrell Green settlement if you removed the 2,000 unnecessary houses from the target. I might add the new settlement is entirely unsuitable. It is bordered by the M3 and A30. Criss-crossed by the railway, power lines and a high-pressure gas main. A big chunk of the site is former landfill. Only last year a solar farm was turned down on the grounds it would spoil the view from the Odiham Deer Park and spoil the enjoyment of walkers on the public footpaths. This proposal is far more intrusive than solar panels.

So finally, I urge you, please do the right thing and plan for a sensible housing target. Don’t blight our green fields with so many unnecessary houses. If you really want to help the concealed households, make sure you allocate some of the existing housing target to subsidised social-rented accommodation.

How should we deal with the ‘housing crisis’?

Housing Crisis

There is much hand-wringing in the media today about the so-called ‘housing crisis’. We have done quite a bit of research on this topic and come across three important articles by Ian Mulheirn of Oxford Economics. His articles show we have a crisis of low interest rates, not a crisis of too few houses. We summarise his arguments here and provide links to the full articles below.

Is there really a housing crisis?

The conventional wisdom is that there is a serious housing crisis, as per the FT:

  • We don’t have enough housing. The UK has an ‘endemic shortage of housing’ as housebuilding has ‘lagged behind population growth’.
  • Housing costs are high as a result. These have ‘wiped out income gains made by the bottom half of households’ over the past 13 years.
  • Building more will solve the problem, especially for the less well-off. ‘The fundamental problem is one of supply’ it argues, and boosting it will substantially benefit those people who are ‘just about managing’.

But, if you are to solve a problem, you need to unpack it and home in on the real issues.  Some argue there are too few houses for people to live in, then the evidence simply doesn’t back it up. Since 1990 there were 3.0% more houses than. Latest ONS estimates show that has risen to 5.2%. Since 1971 surplus dwelling stock has risen from ~0.2m to around 1.4m.

Housing Crisis? There's Surplus Housing Stock

Surplus Dwelling Stock: Source: DCLG tables 401 and 101; ONS households from 2011

The reason for the panic is that the DCLG systematically over-estimate the number of households there are going to be:

Inaccurate DCLG forecasts of household growth

And some official numbers underestimate the number of new dwellings by only counting newly built stock and ignoring things like conversions:

Housing crisis? Inaccurate measurement of new housing stock

This might explain why developers are not building as fast as they are being granted planning permission. If they built faster, then there wouldn’t be demand for their output.

So, if the housing crisis is not about a shortage of places for people to live, what has happened to the cost of housing?

Are housing costs too high?

Might the housing crisis be caused by the costs of housing? Well, strange as it may seem, like for like rental costs are pretty stable in real terms:

Like for like costs of rent

Like for like costs of rent: Source ONS

And the costs of owning are falling, compared to renting. That is if you measure the real cost of owning, which is interest costs of a mortgage plus maintenance and taxes. This doesn’t cover the repayment element of a mortgage, which is really just another savings vehicle.

Costs of rent versus owning

So what is causing the housing crisis? There’s no shortage of housing and housing costs are not high.

Why are house prices so high and will building more bring them down?

The short answer is house prices are so high is because interest rates are so low.

What it undeniably faces, however, is very high house prices. UK house prices are now over 150% higher in real terms than they were 20 years ago. How can such an escalation of prices have occurred if there isn’t a shortage of places to live? The answer lies in the fact that housing has a dual function: it’s a place to live but it’s also an asset that pays a return in the form of the owner occupier not having to pay rent….

This means that as global interest rates fall, house prices will inevitably rise. Indeed if the real cost of ownership were to halve, we’d expect prices to double, which, as it happens, is broadly where we are vis a vis 20 years ago.

So putting it all together we have:

  • no firm indication that there are too few dwellings for the number of households in the UK relative to 20 years ago;
  • evidence that the cost of housing in either tenure has fallen over the past decade, and is broadly comparable with 20 years ago in real terms;
  • a steady fall in mortgage, and more generally global, interest rates that we would expect to lead to a substantial price response regardless of the adequacy of the housing stock.

So, what do we do about it?

Well, there’s no easy answers, but granting permission to build more on our green fields, or even building many more houses won’t make much difference to house prices. Indeed, building too many more houses might result in big issues like they had in Spain and Ireland:

But building many more houses than people want to live in is a dangerous route to go down, as Spain and Ireland can attest. For comparison, Ireland had an estimated surplus of dwellings over households of around 14 percent on the eve of the financial crisis (which among other things proves that households don’t just form because there are vacant houses). This building mania was something like the equivalent, relative to stock, of the UK adding 1 million new dwellings per year from 2002–11. But even this didn’t do anything noticeable to rein in Ireland’s property market during the boom, with prices rising by a fair amount more than the UK’s. A similar story can be told in Spain.

Conclusion

In our view, if we want more places for young people to afford to live in, we have to build more social rented accommodation. Certainly, doubling Hart’s housing target from the 5,000 or so required by natural population change, to over 10,000 is not the answer.

Ian Mulheirn’s articles can be found on the links below:

Part 1: Is there *really* a housing shortage?

Part 2: Are housing costs high?

Part 3: Why are prices so high and will building more bring them down?