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News - 25 November 2006
Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart

South East housing numbers showdown

A group of south east councils have banded together to form a lobby group to campaign on a number of issues including the government’s proposed 82,400 new homes for the south east over the next 20 years. Brighton& Hove City Council isn’t one of them.

Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex have formed the South East Counties Leaders (SECL) lobby group which opposes the housing plans across the region. It is chaired by Sandy Bruce Lockhart, the Leader Kent County Council.

The thrust of their argument is that housing numbers on this scale will damage the environment and require serious infrastructure investment before the homes are in place.

The indicative figures for the region by 2026 include 11,000 homes in Brighton & Hove; 14,000 for Mid Sussex; 12,400 for Horsham; 4,000 for Worthing; 8,600 for Chichester; 7,000 for Crawley; 9,300 across Arun and 4,200 in Hastings.

SECL is proposing a maximum limit of 578,000 across the region and a maximum of 2,900 per annum in West Sussex.

ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP COMMENT

Brighton & Hove is expected to build an average 550 homes per annum for the next 20 years. In fact it already builds at more or less this rate and has exceeded previous government house building targets by a comfortable margin.

With major developments like Brighton Marina and the King Alfred expected to make a significant contribution it is highly likely that the city will achieve the targets set by the government. It is always a danger that we will meet our targets but surrounding districts will not. With several different projections for housing need from a variety of sources (SEEDA, SEERA, Treasury etc) it is important that some clarity is delivered sooner rather than later so that emerging Local Development Plan documents can be properly informed.

The debate over the future prosperity of the south-east region is has, to a large extent, been hijacked by the controversy over housing numbers. Equally important in the equation is employment numbers and it is essential that residents have the option of well-paid job opportunities close to the places where they live.

Given that the proportion of young people being priced out of the housing market is continuing to grow with the percentage of under 30s buying their own home dropping from 40% to 34% in the last five years, many will suspect the motivations of the politicians have more to do with votes today rather than the needs of future generations tomorrow.


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