Despite the best efforts of the Conservative group Cornwall Council have rejected Cllr Steve Chamberlain’s proposal for a housing growth number of 33,000 and have decided to consult Cornish residents on a figure of 47,500.
Whatever your view of the 'right' number it was disappointing that Cornwall Council decided to treat the assurance obtained by Sarah Newton MP from Nick Boles, Minister for Housing, as if it had never been given. Councillors are consistently asking that our MPs help them and on this occasion they have chosen to ignore her help.
In estimating the housing 'needed' for Cornwall for the purposes of the Local Plan, the Minister said that there was no fixed method for estimating the need, provided that the calculation was based on robust evidence.
The manner in which the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures are generally used for the assessment of housing need does not provide an accurate picture of the future population of Cornwall. This has been shown time and again. It should come as no surprise because our population growth is almost exclusively as a result of net inward migration, which is far more difficult to estimate than natural growth.
The housing report prepared by the council’s consultants predicts that between 47,300 and 71,980 dwellings will be needed.
Unfortunately the approach taken by Cornwall council in not challenging the consultant’s figures will allow the planning inspector who examines their plan the opportunity to ask why he/she should not require the higher number.
Recent examples of local authorities that have submitted evidence with a range of figures is that the inspector will require the top end of the range and not the bottom.
The net result of today’s decision by councillors voting for 47,500 is that they will open the door for the inspector to reject the plan as unsound and/or require a figure closer to 71,980.
A bad day for Cornwall and a disaster in the making.