I always thought that my disappointment with the British planning system was rooted in my professional belief that it could have and must now do much better in ensuring new development is sustainable (ie "consume its own smoke') and act as a driver to make all existing development in town and country more sustainable. However, I can now add my own disappointment with the planning system.
We have lived in the same village for the last 35 years and were able to move once from a small terraced house built for agricultural workers, but then taken over by the rural district council and then sold off. This move was to a 4 bedroomed house that I designed and had built while we lived in a caravan in the garden. This propelled us several steps up the housing ladder so that the house would fetch about £600k with or without the plot that is currently the subject of a planning application (for a small two-bedroomed house with a potentially self - contained ground floor). I am told not to even think about building this out and moving in.
So what are our options. There are virtually no two bedroomed or even small three bedroomed houses except those for social rent (in the [private sector most have been extended into 4 bedders). This problem should be solved by the three developers looking to build 250 dwellings in the village over the next few years. The first application is in (for 73 units) and there are a few 2 bedroomed properties (and all for rent of equity share). There are quite a number of three bedroomed properties but few are south facing (not just a personal preference) and the gardens are tiny. The District Council carried out research that showed that 97% of new dwellings would need to be 1 or 2 bedroomed to meet the needs of small and contracting household size. The inadequately explained compromise in the Local Plan was 50% one and two bedroomed dwellings. The village local housing needs survey found 24 out of those expressing a need wanting 2 bedroomed properties. The neighbourhood plan cites the Office of National Statistics and that 80% of the dwellings have one or usually more spare bedrooms.
Why are the developers so resistant to building new dwellings attractive to potential downsizers? Many will want smaller houses (self-contained on the ground floor) but many will also want decent gardens.
So this 73 house development is presented as 'sustainable development' in a highly car dependent village (parking provision above maximum standards), with few terraced houses, few south facing, no opportunities reserved for co-housing or self-building and nothing above Code for Sustainable Homes level 3.
I found it relatively easy to find accommodation as a student, then as a young planner and as a singleton and then as part of a young family. The real problems are being experienced wanting to take a step down the housing ladder and the planners seem to be unable or reluctant to help. The application for the new housing estate will be determined in early summer (when the relevant NDP in which the site is allocated will have been made or set aside). This Blog will then describe whether the planners have decided to do anything to accommodate the needs for downsizers in a sustainable way.