House build­ing tar­gets need to be more re­al­is­tic

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Your Telegraph - NICK SAND­FORD Lib dem group deputy leader Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil

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.

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