Wirral Council’s leader Cllr Phil Davies has used figures released by the Office for National Statistics as proof Wirral was right to tell ministers that it “should not have to slavishly follow the Government’s national formula” on housing targets, as household growth in the borough is set to be lower than predicted.
The estimates are likely to add fuel to the ongoing dispute between Wirral Council and the Department for Communities & Local Government over Wirral’s Local Plan. Wirral had been heavily criticised by the Government for its lack of Local Plan earlier this year, with then-Housing Secretary Sajid Javid writing to the authority due to “consistent failure” and “no exceptional circumstances to justify… such little progress.”
The council hit back following the letter, arguing the Government was “dead wrong” and said the local authority “neither welcomed nor appreciated the Secretary of State’s overtly political intervention.” When the draft Local Plan was released in July, the council said it was pushing a “brownfield-first” strategy and was resistant to Government figures which would see it need to release Green Belt.
Wirral was set a target of 12,000 homes by 2035, or approximately 800 a year, determined based on the Government’s formula using economic and demographic data.
However, the Office for National Statistics has released revised figures which Wirral Council said indicates the target should be much lower, closer to 500.
Cllr Phil Davies said: “Yesterday we received notification from the Office of National Statistics that the base figures for household growth for Wirral are to be downgraded to more accurately reflect the real changes in population we are experiencing here in the borough.
“The new ONS figures published indicate that the number of new homes actually required is in fact less than 500 – nearly half of the number first proposed.
“We have argued that the original figures were too high and were leading to a miscalculation which threatened our Green Belt. Indeed, I wrote to the minister advocating that we should not have to slavishly follow the Government’s national formula – and we have been proved right.
“We now need to review what this means for our Local Plan and we will be writing to Government ministers to reaffirm our commitment to developing a robust Local Plan but urging them to take these new calculations into account so we can protect our Green Belt.”
Wirral is currently consulting on its draft Local Plan; comments are open until 26 October. More information can be found at: www.wirral.gov.uk/localplan