Guildford 5-yr Housing Strategy

Guildford Borough Council has launched its five-year housing strategy consultation (ends 16th December 2014)

A link to the consultation page is here and the documents are attached below:

Draft_Local_Plan_consultation_questionnaire_and_monitoring_form

Hsg_Strat_2015-20_DRAFT_Appendix_1_-_General_statistics_Nov14

Hsg_Strat_2015-20_DRAFT_Appendix_2_-_Updated_guidance_on_rents_and_affordability_Nov14

Hsg_Strat_2015-20_DRAFT_Appendix_3_-_Affordable_housing_stock_in_the_borough_Nov14

Hsg_Strat_2015-20_DRAFT_Appendix_4_-_Rural_housing_needs_surveys_Nov14

Other documents referred to are:

Housing_Needs_Assessment_Report

Housing_Strategy_Interim_Statement

Homelessness_Strategy_2013_-_2018

There is perhaps some irony that the Lead Member for housing, Cllr Sarah Creedy, sets great store by the ambition to “maximise the proportion of affordable housing” provided, and yet the development company she owns with her husband was apparently unable to provide a commitment to a single affordable unit in a conversion to nine flats of a building in Central Guildford.  It may be we are not in possession  of all of the facts but here was an opportunity for Cllr Creedy to commit to, say, one of the homes being rented out at 80% of market rent or sold on an equity share basis without substantially diluting their return.

Aim 1.8 sets out the following: “Ensure that the mix of new affordable homes on any development is appropriate for the proposed locality taking account of the existing supply and local need

Of signifcant interest in the Local Plan process is the section on HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) on page 36 of the main document:

“Houses in Multiple Occupation
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) or shared houses provide flexible accommodation for a range of households within the private rented sector. They comprise a significant part of the private rented market in Guildford.
We carried out a mapping exercise in 2011 to identify the extent of HMOs. This indicated that there were approximately 2521 in the borough, of which 1417 were in the Guildford town wards of Friary and St Nicolas, Westborough and Onslow. Moreover, there are likely to be many more HMOs created in the borough since then, due to the introduction of permitted planning rights in 2010. These rights allow a change of use of a house or flat from being occupied by a single household to a HMO for between 2-6 people.
The necessity for HMOs is accepted as an inevitable result of the lack of housing, house prices within the town, and the popular and expanding higher education institutions. While there is often an assumption that HMOs in Guildford are lived in by students, this is often not the case.
Many young professionals who are unable to afford to live in the town without sharing occupy HMOs. For some tenants it is the accommodation of choice. Furthermore, the cost of transport from outside the borough can outweigh rental costs so many people who live in HMOs are working in the Guildford area to avoid commuter journeys, or because of the close proximity to the borough’s rail stations.
The expansion of the private rented sector and HMOs in particular has given rise a number of perceived issues which are affecting residents.
They are the impact of having a high concentration of HMOs in parts of the town can contribute to:
 Poor housing standards in HMOs and non-compliance with housing standards
 Poor neighbourhood relations, including antisocial behaviour
 Nuisance from noise, rubbish and parking

The aspirations in the document (from a cursory read) do not seem misplaced but it is important to recognise that this is a key opportunity to ensure that one of the principal inputs to the Local Plan (demand side) has been reviewed.

As always we welcome comments and feedback.

 

Time running out for comment

The Consultation Period ends on 22nd September and the Guildford Vision Group and Guildford Society talks on Town Centre Vision (3rd September at the Millmead Centre) and Local Plan Submission (15th September at the Trinity Centre) are coming up fast.

The Clock is Ticking – or is it a Time Bomb?

Julian D S Lyon MBA FRICS
 
The Consultation Periods for the Town Centre Vision and the Draft Local Plan both end on 22nd September.
 
Guildford Vision Group and Guildford Society talks on Town Centre Vision (3rd September at the Millmead Centre) and Local Plan Submission (15th September at the Trinity Centre) are coming up fast.
 
The Town Centre Vision is a vital component of the Local Plan – a once in fifty to a hundred year opportunity to reclaim the riverside from traffic and create a fabulous environment in which to live, work, study and play.  The Surrey Advertiser (Friday 29th September) gave a glimpse of the GVG concept plan to reroute the traffic to the west of the town centre and to create pedestrian priority around the river and between the town centre and the station, university and cathedral.
 
A viable and vibrant town centre needs plenty of people living in the town, and yet much of the town centre (believe it or not) scores in the most deprived 3% of local super output areas (‘LSOA‘s) in the country for outdoor living environment! Simply piling more housing into town without comprehensively resolving that issue would simply be wrong.
 
The Local Plan – if you had just arrived here and read the column inches in the media – would seem to be all about the complete devastation of the green belt and the imposition of an astronomic number of homes per year.
 
However much it may feel like that is the case, the reality is different.
 
The amount of green belt (in net terms) proposed for development is quite small and the housing numbers at 652 are high but our run rate to 2011 since 1931 averages 495 homes per year.  Recent press reports emphasise the pressures on our population numbers and the Government is trying to deal with a current housing shortage.
 
The approach has been wrong.  Perhaps some of the sites proposed are wrong.  The mathematics seem to be inexplicably wrong. The evidence base is a poor starting point for some fundamental changes to our spatial planning.  These are all good reasons to respond robustly to the Local Plan Consultation.
 
On the other hand, there are some major spatial planning issues that really need addressing:
 
We have (in this generally wealthy borough) thirteen LSOAs in the poorest 50% in the country and one in the poorest 25% nationally under the Multiple Deprivation Index.  This in itself seems like a small local area to work on but drilling down into details tells a different story. 
 
  • We have several areas in the most deprived 5% in the country for access to housing and services.
  • We have one particular area where, even in this generally well-educated borough, we are in the poorest 2.5% in the county for young person’s education and skills.
  • We have some wild extremes of performance across the borough in many of the other deprivation domains
 
Alongside this challenging set of statistics, we know our infrastructure has lacked meaningful investment for decades.
 
Guildford, as a second tier authority, cannot solve many of these issues alone – there needs to be a shadow unitary authority to actually get things done – but it can lay the groundwork by allocating land for solutions and delivering real vision and leadership through the Local Plan.  
 
There are many other issues that the Local Plan should seek to resolve.  Many of these issues will require major investment and, absent contributions from Government, we will need developments to help finance some of these solutions.
 
My experience tells me that small-scale developments will not fund such deficits and so, from the data I have examined rather than from reading the evidence base, I am persuaded that we need to think bigger than nibbling at the edges or pulling up the drawbridge.
 
Looking at the town centre again, we do need more people living in the town centre but we need them and the current residents to have better access to a great outdoor environment – designed for living in, not requiring a constant fight with traffic to get from A to B, without having to breathe in pollutants from traffic sitting in queues belching exhaust fumes into the air.  Town centre homes can reduce the pressure on the green belt but preserving one environment (green belt) whilst destroying another (Guildford Urban Area) would not be sustainable.
 

I do not think the Local Plan has got it right and the Guildford Society will be responding robustly.

 
Despite the personalisation of the public responses – born out of understandable frustration but, in my view, quite misdirected – I do believe that Cllr Mansbridge is the kind of leader who can make a difference.  We have two specific tasks in the next three weeks and thereafter:
 
  • submit our objective responses to the Draft Plan, the Town Centre Vision (Oh, yes, and the Habitats consultation and the upcoming Surrey County Council Transport consultation); and
  • follow up to ensure our respective comments are noted and reflected in the next iteration.
I hope we will finish up with a Local Plan that gets to grips with the issues, seizes the right opportunities and leaves the majority of the borough intact.  To paraphrase Cllr Mansbridge’s recent statement:
 
IN ORDER FOR MUCH OF THE BOROUGH TO STAY PRETTY MUCH THE SAME, SOME THINGS WILL HAVE TO CHANGE, and the Local Plan is about making those changes in the least impactful way.