East Devon’s MPs are being urged to press the Government to rethink its targets for new house building.

The district council has written to Simon Jupp (East Devon), Richard Foord (Tiverton & Honiton) and Mel Stride (Central Devon) to raise serious concerns about the current target of 910 new homes a year in East Devon.

The letter describes the standard methodology for setting these targets as ‘a crude and blunt instrument’ and a 'fundamentally flawed approach'. It warns that ‘urgent action is needed before the character of East Devon is irreparably eroded to make way for new housing that is unaffordable to local people and cannot be accommodated without significant environmental harm’.

The letter says: “The main input into the standard method is household growth projections but these projections are based on past trends. The impact of this on the housing need figure is massive, and yet all that this means is that growth is directed to the locations that have historically seen growth.

“As a result those areas of the country that have historically done as successive governments have asked and accommodated growth are punished by ever increasing housing need figures. This is because growth leads to a growing population which in turn increases household growth projections thereby creating a need for even more homes.”

It points out that East Devon has already seen ‘huge amounts of growth’ in recent years through the new town of Cranbrook and urban extensions of many towns, and that this level of growth is unsustainable. 

It says: “Hospitals and GP practices are oversubscribed, and schools are over-capacity in some areas and have substandard and insufficient accommodation and facilities. The main roads in and out of Exeter are heavily congested at peak times while public transport is infrequent, un-co-ordinated and does not serve many rural areas.”

The letter also notes that, at the end of last year, changes to the national planning policy were announced that would have given local authorities more flexibility in setting housing numbers, but those changes ‘have not come forward’.

Sidmouth Herald: Cllrs Paul Arnott and Olly Davey

The letter, signed by the leader of the council Cllr Paul Arnott and the portfolio holder for strategic planning, Cllr Olly Davey, calls for ‘a review of the standard methodology for calculating housing need and a more positive approach to solving the housing crisis'.

In particular it asks for ‘a move away from algorithms that pay no regard to the consequences of new housing numbers on the environment and the communities affected by growth’.