House building targets need to be more realistic
STEWART Jackson is right (ET, June 1) to call for a review of Peterborough’s rather excessive and entirely unachievable house building targets. But he is completely wrong in who he seeks to blame for imposing them in the first place.
It seems he is trying to airbrush history to hide the mistakes of his Tory colleagues on the city council. The 25,000 houses target was not imposed by Central Government, as Stewart claims. In much of the country, Government did impose massive housing targets on local authorities: but not here.
Peterborough was given a target in the first draft of the East of England regional Plan of a maximum of 20,000 new homes by 2020. Peterborough City Council’s Tory cabinet went to the Examination in Public and argued strongly that this target should be increased significantly: figures of 30,000 or even higher were being thrown around. In the end the Inspector gave Peterborough a revised target of a minimum of 25,000 new homes.
The fact is the council was struggling to find enough sites to satisfy the original 20,000 target.
The Liberal Democrats and others argued at the time that the Tories’ self imposed higher target of 25,000 was quite simply crazy and unachievable. Events since then have proved us right and current rates of house building are woefully short of being on track to achieve either target.
The council naively assumed that the more houses it committed to building, the more money central government would give it. From answers he has given to my questions at Full Council, it appears that Cllr Cereste still subscribes to this misguided view. The council has squandered a lot of the money it has received on grandiose projects such as the fountains in Cathedral Square, plans for waste incinerators and water taxis etc. But now, even if there was a tap of government milk and honey (money) … the chances are it will very soon run dry.
We have always argued that what this city needs is housing growth which is sustainable; and that means economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. Housing which is designed to accommodate the needs of current city residents and their families, as well as some to meet the needs of new people attracted to the city by jobs created as the economy recovers.
Yet Peterborough’s Community Strategy, its draft Core Strategy and other planning documents are all riddled with the language of rapid expansion with massive influxes of new residents. Such language was over ambitious five years ago. Today it is downright crazy and exposes us to the risk of distorting key decisions to meet increasingly irrelevant and unachievable growth targets.
Now is the time for our city council leaders to bite the bullet and change tack. Time to admit they got it wrong and to pursue a more realistic and sustainable strategy.