The housing supply situation in Tewkesbury has become a topic of heated debate in recent years. While the local authority has consistently sought to claim a five-year housing land supply, several recent planning appeals confirm that the Local Authority have consistently and systematically incorrectly assessed housing land supply.
A recent planning appeal decision for a site in Alderton provides further evidence that Tewkesbury doesn’t have the housing supply they claim. This has implications for future housing development in the borough, affecting residents, developers, and local policymakers alike.
The Planning Appeal Decision:
The appeal cantered around the demolition of an existing building and the construction of up to 48 new dwellings. Tewkesbury Borough Council claimed a 6.68 year housing supply, while the appellant argued it was 2.27 years, reflecting a shortfall of 1660 homes. The discrepancy stemmed from Tewkesbury's inclusion of sites allocated to serve the needs of the neighbouring Gloucester and Cheltenham authority areas as defined in the Joint Core Strategy.
The appointed government Inspector concluded that these allocations couldn't be used to boost Tewkesbury's housing supply, leading to a reduced estimate of between 2.27 to 3.32 years supply.
The 'Tilted Balance' and Sustainable Development:
Where an authority cannot demonstrate a deliverable 5 year supply of land for housing, the concept of the 'tilted balance' comes into play. This means that local plan policies which are most important for determining planning applications for housing are deemed to be out of date. This then triggers the “presumption in favour of sustainable development”. Developments must not result in adverse impacts that outweigh the benefits, and they must not encroach upon protected sites like Green Belt land, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or designated heritage assets.
The Significance of the Housing Shortfall:
The situation in Tewkesbury mirrors a broader issue faced by many councils across the country. With numerous council unable to demonstrate a five-year housing supply. The shortfall in the number of houses provided is a significant challenge with far-reaching consequences for local communities. It can lead to inflated property prices, housing shortages, and an imbalance in housing demand and supply. The effects are felt across all sectors of the housing market, but create particularly acute issues for first time buyers and those seeking affordable homes.
The Uncertain Future:
Complicating matters further is the government's intention to dilute the importance of achieving housing targets. This decision raises questions about how the housing shortfall will be addressed in the long term. Without clear targets, there is a risk that the housing crisis will persist or worsen, putting increased pressure on local authorities.
The housing supply issue in Tewkesbury serves as a microcosm of a broader national challenge. While councils grapple with demonstrating an adequate housing supply, the consequences impact communities and future development prospects. The recent appeal decision in Alderton has highlighted the need for transparent and accurate assessments of housing supply. The 'tilted balance' mechanism presents opportunities for sustainable development in Tewkesbury. In truth the problem is caused by the Local Authority’s abject failure to properly plan for housing in the borough. When adopting the JCS in 2017 the examining inspector directed the local authority to undertake an immediate review of future housing requirements including the allocation of additional land. Tewkesbury, Gloucester and Cheltenham have all failed to address shortfalls which were identified in 2017.
As we move forward, it is imperative that policymakers at the local and national levels collaborate to find innovative solutions to the housing crisis. Ensuring an adequate and equitable housing supply is essential for the well-being and prosperity of present and future generations. By the application of proper grown up planning (free of political interference), we could pave the way for a more stable and sustainable housing future in Tewkesbury and beyond. Sadly, nothing produced by the current government engenders any hope that we will see any meaningful change.
About Evans Jones:
Evans Jones is a construction consultancy, with offices in Cheltenham, Reading and London which has been in practice for over 50 years. Evans Jones provides professional consultancy services to the commercial sector in the areas of Town Planning, Construction, Development, Building Consultancy, Disabled Access Consultancy (Equality Act) and legal obligations associated with construction and development.
Clients include: Ashford District Council, HSBC, Travelodge, NFU Mutual, British Airways, UCAS, University of Gloucestershire, Liverpool City Council, NHS Foundation, Clarks Shoes, Bovis Homes, Midcounties Co-Operative, British Waterways, Severn Trent Water, Crest Nicholson, Cheltenham College and Cheltenham Ladies College