Monday, 25 February 2013

Housing wibble - a comment on Bradford's housing need guesses


Just escaped from a presentation on the Bradford Housing Study from the consultants to Bradford Council. It was, as ever, a very interesting presentation full of fascinating insights in to the things that lead in the end to houses being built in one place but not in another.

The presentation wasn't about where those houses would be built. And the layman watching would be left none the wiser as to Bradford Council's plans. The presentation was about housing 'need' - an attempt (a vain attempt, I would say) to predict the unpredictable. How many houses will we 'need' in and around Bradford so as to ensure that everyone has a home to live in? Not next year or the year after but way ahead - 2028 to be precise. It is the special planner version of hubris.

Now, it's not the Council's fault since clever folk down in Whitehall have determined the basis for the these planning processes and the Planning Inspectorate will make damned sure that such requirements are adhered to whatever local people might think.

So what did the consultants conclude? Essentially that Bradford's population will grow and, therefore, will need houses to live in. And that the reason for that growth will be natural rather than a consequence of migration - to summarise, we're going to live longer and people will carry on having babies. All this means - so the consultants say - that we'll need around 40,000 new houses by 2028.

Now I know one thing about housing need predictions - and those housing numbers. They are wrong. I don't know the right answer but I do know they are wrong - predictions of housing need are always wrong. Just as importantly these is real world evidence to say that the Council's consultants are wrong - nothing to do with cunning predictions of need but instead about what actually does get built in the City.

In the last ten years - and this is in the consultants report - the annual housing target proposed to meet these new housing numbers has never been met. Not once, not even in the mad rush to build hundreds of city centre flats were more that 2,100 homes completed in a year. Yet this is exactly what the planners will propose - an undeliverable target requiring swathes of green fields to be released for development. The market will love sites in Ilkley and Silsden - gobbling them up to cater for folk who can't quite afford to live in Wetherby or Harrogate. But the tricky urban sites will remain untouched, sitting there growing buddleia and fireweed.

A symbol of everything that is wrong with 'spatial strategies', 'plan-led development' and all the other wibble of the planning world.


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