Under local pressure, politicians are looking to squeeze the picturesque city of York's future housing provision. Turley Associates argues that the original figure of 800 homes was already woefully small.
Eamonn Keogh is a Director in the Leeds office of planning consultancy Turley Associates and Chairman of the York Property Forum.
The City of York Council is about to submit its Core Strategy to the Secretary of State. An examination will be held in April/May this year. A key issue will be the level of housing provision for the city for coming years.
Intertwined with the housing issue is that of the Green Belt. As an indication of how contentious the issue is likely to be, prior to losing power last year, the previous Conservative/Lib Dem administration had proposed a housing provision of 575 dwellings per annum to limit incursion into the Green Belt. Officers had strongly recommended the figure should be 800 based on independent research. The regional strategy figure was 850 dwellings per annum.
One of the first actions of the Labour administration when elected last year was to revise the housing provision figure back up to 800 on the basis, rightly, that the figure of 575 would be indefensible at the Core Strategy examination. However recent work we have carried out with Cambridge Econometrics using the Chelmer housing forecasting model indicates that the figure of 800 is itself wholly inadequate and will not even cater for the city's naturally generated housing needs.
The Chelmer model allows us to quickly consider "what if" scenarios for future housing requirements. Assuming no migration, the natural population growth in the district over the next 15 years will give rise to a requirement for around 930 dwellings per annum - significantly above what the Council has planned for.
Whilst we can debate assumptions about migration, two points are indisputable. First, the proposed housing requirement in the Core Strategy will not cater for the City's natural growth. Second, York has been one of the fastest growing cities in the UK in the past 15 years and, economic recession aside, is likely to continue to experience in-migration for the foreseeable future, giving rise to a housing requirement even higher than 930. The Government's population projections suggest the figure could be in the region of 1,300 houses per annum. Either way the proposed housing figures in the Core Strategy are inadequate to meet future housing needs.
The Labour administration has already taken the courageous step of increasing housing numbers. Yet with the housing waiting list currently standing at 2,700 households and growth predictions continuing to place pressure on the housing market, York still has some very difficult decisions to make.