CALLS have been made to the government for it to revise the “out of date” methodology behind housing targets.

Fearing it will lead to further green belt development, BCP Council’s Christchurch Independents have written to housing secretary Robert Jenrick expressing “serious concerns” over its numbers.

But the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said its figures gave councils “stability and certainty” and that targets could be set locally.

Forecasts for housing demand are based on population projections calculated based on 2014 Office for National Statistics data.

This showed the BCP Council area was expected to see population growth of 0.73 per cent per year but the more recent 2018 data put this at 0.17 per cent.

The letter written by the Christchurch Independents says it is “inconceivable” that this “large change” is not considered in the government calculations.

It warns that unless this is changed green belt land would have to be used for housing and that developers would prioritise this over brown field sites.

“It is our opinion that the government’s standard method cannot be justified, and is fundamentally flawed, by using 2014 national statistics,” it says. “A new, realistic approach is required evidenced by credible, up-to-date statistics.”

Work is underway to put together a new BCP Council Local Plan but councillors have warned that even increasing the density of housing in urban areas and redeveloping brown field land will leave it thousands of homes short of its housing targets.

This prompted councillors to agree to include every green belt site put forward by developers in a call for sites into a consultation planned for this summer.

Speaking last month, councillor Mike Brooke, who heads up the working group overseeing the planning blueprint, said “at this stage, this is the only way forward”.

But councillors are now stepping up calls on the government to reassess housing figures to prevent green belt land being needed.

“I believe that BCP Council should be actively challenging the government’s use of unrealistic, out-of-date housing need projections,” Christchurch Independent councillor Margaret Phipps, the former cabinet member for planning said. “We should not be producing a Local Plan for the area using the wrong statistics.”

Her group’s letter to Mr Jenrick was sent last week.

However, a spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it believed its current approach was the best for local authorities.

“The standard method is the starting point for calculating the number of homes required in an area, not a target,” they said. “Councils are best placed to determine their local housing need and set their own targets.

“We believe the 2014 based household projections continue to give councils stability and certainty in their plans while meeting our objective of significantly boosting the supply of homes.”

They added that preventing green belt development “remains a priority” for the government and that national planning policy gives it “strong protections”.