Council must plan for more new housing

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ROTHER has been delivered a bombshell by a government inspector, who claims the council has not made enough provision for future housing.

Rother’s proposals in its Local Plan Strategy (LPS) fall short of requirement and do not meet the full need for housing in our area, including affordable homes.

That’s the initial finding of Inspector Laura Graham, who suggests the council goes back to the drawing board and has given it until January 18 to tell her if the LPS can be revised.

Councillors must now look at ways of saving the plan and will discuss this imminently.

The inspector focussed on her concerns relating to future homes because it was “a fundamental aspect of the LPS which may have wider ramifications”.

She critised RDC’s proposed strategy to provide only between 77-85 per cent of the housing required by the South East Plan, which was some 5,600 dwellings in the region between 2006 and 2026. The LPS includes a housing target for the period 2011-2028, expressed as a range of 3,700-4,100 dwellings.

The council explained reduction in provision was down to delay in the building of the link road, the economic downturn, and problems with the availability of potential housing sites on the edge of Hastings and Rye. She suggested the first two were short-term problems, that Rother’s house provision should be in line with the BHLR, that the economic downturn was “not a credible reason” for reducing the overall target. She added that other sites could be found to meet the target. The council also felt the presence of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Rother was further cause for reducing development in the rural area, but the inspector rejected this as an argument.

The council had considered that 350-500 dwellings a year for the Hastings/Rother area an appropriate level, but the inspector did not agree this conformed with the National Planning Police Framework. “The Framework requires the level of need to be identified and places a duty on local authorities to meet that need, so far as that is consistent with other policies in the Framework.”

She felt pre-empting a change in the Framework was not an option and told the council: “In the circumstances, the only robust figure available at this time is the SEP requirement.

“I am therefore inviting the council to reconsider the strategy for housing in the Local Plan Strategy. One possible approach would be to revert to the SEP figures, as included in earlier versions of the Plan, and include a commitment to an early review of the Plan to ensure full compliance with the Framework.”