BCP Council will soon consult on the first stage of its Local Plan (2022–2038) which will include how much housing we need and where it should go.

As reported in Monday’s Echo, the draft document has been published, but I believe the approach being taken to calculate our housing ‘need’ is wrong.

The council has blindly gone with the Government Standard Method using ONS 2014 data, amounting to 42,672 homes – but without having yet completed an Independent Housing Needs Assessment.

National Planning Policy says the Standard Method should be used unless exceptional circumstances justify an alternative approach, and planning guidance states that assessing housing need is the first step in the process of deciding how many homes need to be planned for.

So why wasn’t the needs assessment done first?

BCP has not yet completed its assessment to identify a real housing needs figure, which could help to justify not using the out-of-date 2014 figures.

Over-estimating housing need will lead to higher densities and heights in urban areas, intensification of building in heritage areas and more loss of precious green belt.

If housing need is calculated for the plan period using the latest up-to-date ONS statistics from 2018, the comparative housing figure comes to only around 21,600. The difference in the calculation is stark.

Even if that was increased to around 30,000, it could be the difference in saving our green belt from housing development which is not needed.

We are told that the needs assessment is being done and will be available in around four weeks.

The draft Issues and Options Document will come before Overview and Scrutiny Board next Monday and Cabinet on July 28.

I have strongly championed a short delay in the consultation to wait for the needs assessment results

Getting the housing numbers right is so very important to our residents and environment.

This is especially important since the merger, as Christchurch and Poole could end up losing more open green belt land to accommodate what is mostly Bournemouth’s housing quota.

I hope that Cabinet is listening and will wait to be informed by the housing needs assessment of what our real need is.


Christchurch Independent

Commons Ward, Christchurch

Member of the Local Plan Working Party