Thanet council delivered just 35% of its housing target in 2019 according to figures published by the government – meaning it must now put measures in place to ensure housing is created at a faster pace.
In the results of the 2019 Housing Delivery Test published by The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) Thanet is shown as having the third lowest rate of housing target completions in the country.
It means the council has to have an action plan showing why the target wasn’t met and how it will make sure more houses are completed – either built or brought back into use – in the future.
A 20% buffer of extra land for housing, on top of that already identified, must be created and there must also be a presumption in favour of sustainable development.
All three measures now apply to Thanet meaning the council is expected to approve development proposals that are in line with an up-to-date local plan without delay. Care has to be taken to make sure there aren’t other policies which automatically count against a development, such as Green Belt -not Green Wedge- areas of outstanding natural beauty; World Heritage Sites; Scheduled Ancient Monuments; SSSI’s and important habitat sites. But for ‘ordinary’ sites the balance will be tilted in favour of development.
In 2017/18 Thanet had a delivery test target to create 793 homes but the actual number of homes created was 238. This rose in 2018/19 to 366 homes delivered.
Out of 11 sites granted planning permission last year with an affordable homes stipulation 10 sites achieved 30% and the remaining one had an affordable homes figure of 22% – making a total of 20 affordable homes delivered.
Some 322 empty properties were also brought back into use.
Targets in the draft Local Plan – a blueprint for housing, employment and infrastructure up until 2031- require 600 ‘new’ homes to be delivered per year between 2016-2021. From 2021-2026 this rises to 1200 units per year and from 2026-2031 this rises 1317 units per year.
However Thanet council is predicting it will exceed those numbers, outlining an expected 838 homes for 2020/21 and a further 1780 homes for 2021/22.
According to a report by Thanet council 7015 homes have to be created between 2019 to 2024 and a further 8738 homes must be delivered in the following period to 2031.
Birchington campaigner Craig Solly says not only are the housing figures unrealistic but when the local plan is adopted, expected this year, and then reviewed six months later, government formula will mean Thanet’s housing target will rise from 17,140 homes to a requirement of 21,000 homes by 2031.
He added: “Do they seriously believe the housing numbers are deliverable? The housing need has to be realistic and deliverable.”
Last year the government warned Thanet council of continued intervention due to the failure of the authority to get an approved local plan in place. A vote to approve the plan the previous year was rejected in a ‘rebellion’ that led to the end of the UKIP administration.
The rejection was mainly based on the change of status for Manston which proposed to ditch aviation-only use designation and replace it with a mixed use for development.
An “11th hour” amendment to defer for two years the mixed-use designation for Manston airport pending the resolution of the DCO process was not enough to get the plan voted through to publication stage.
In July 2018 Thanet councillors voted to move forward with a new Draft Local Plan which included the re-allocation of 2,500 homes to greenfield sites in the villages, Margate and Westwood as part of a pledge to retain aviation use at Manston airport. The allocations have prompted protests and petitions of objection.
According to the council’s action plan housing delivery has been slow due to Thanet attracting small developers but not many of those wishing to create larger schemes. Low property prices, reduced developer profit margins and a stalled market are also blamed.
Thanet District Council leader Cllr Rick Everitt, said: “There is an obvious need for homes in Thanet and this administration is fully committed to the planning and delivery of these homes.
“Thanet’s Local Plan to 2031 will be adopted in the next few months. We have identified sufficient land to meet the required housing numbers and ensure a five year housing land supply and are performing well in processing new planning applications.
“It’s also important that we listen to the views of local residents about plans for new homes and I would encourage people to take part in our Housing Strategy consultation which closes on February 24.
“We have an ambitious programme of building new council housing which is a priority for this administration. We are exploring the role that a new council owned housing company could play in building more new homes quickly.
“Following the examination for our new Local Plan, the Planning Inspector recommended some changes to the housing trajectory for the district which will help us meet the requirements of the Housing Delivery Test in coming years.
“It is, however, important to say that planning for new homes is only part of the story. For delivery targets to be achieved, we need national housebuilders to be more enthusiastic and proactive about building in Thanet.
“For example, we have 3,570 homes that have an existing planning consent but have not yet started on site. We also know that developers want new homes to be accompanied by key infrastructure projects so we are hopeful that Kent County Council will grant Thanet Parkway planning consent in May of this year.
“Finally, we are working closely with the Housing and Finance Institute on their ‘Housing Business Ready’ programme so feel that we are taking every possible step to see more homes built in Thanet and to encourage house builders to invest locally.”