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Homes being built faster in Cornwall than anywhere else

housing

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 3:13pm 14th August 2018.

Written By Richard Whitehosue, Local Democracy Reporter & BBC Shared Data Unit

New homes are being built in Cornwall at a faster rate than anywhere else in the country, according to new figures.

Latest statistics show that Cornwall has the highest annual average increase in new homes in England.

The figures show that the Government has identified Cornwall’s annual housing need is 2,889 while Cornwall Council has set it at 2,625.

But the stats show that Cornwall has managed to build, on average, 88% of the target set by the Government with an average of 2,548 a year since 2009.

In 2009/10 there were 2,939 new homes built and up to 2016/17 the lowest annual number was 2,029 in 2013/14 and the highest number was 3,074 in 2016/17 – the most recent year for which figures have been provided.

Cornwall Council itself has now started to build homes which it is hoping will provide more affordable homes in areas which need them most.

Cornwall councillor Bert Biscoe said that while the number of homes being built in Cornwall is on the rise they are still out of reach for local people.

The independent Truro councillor said: “Cornwall Council at the moment is engaging in a house-building project.

“However, houses that are for sale in Cornwall which are new tend to be beyond the reach of local people – but within the reach of people who are maybe selling up in places like the south east and moving here.

“Also, there’s a very very strong interest in housing as a commodity. So what we find is that we are building a lot of houses, not a lot of which end up addressing the issues of housing need.

“Cornwall has been building large numbers of houses for a long time. It’s been making provision for a very significant numbers of houses for a very long time through the structure plan process because it has been naturally assumed that our population would benefit from growing.

“But our population is now higher than at any time. than it has ever been even at the pinnacle of the Cornish mining era, which was labour intensive.”

For Mr Biscoe, it is the wider issue of pressure on one of the planks of the local economy – farming – through the potential impact of eating into farmland for housing, that is of as much concern as the ‘second homers’ problem.

“Cornwall is a pointed bit of land stuck out in the middle of nowhere, 28% of it is protected by nationally significant designations. We also have for instance in Cornwall the second most important area of pasture land in the UK and one of the top five areas in the whole of Europe.

“Now if we follow the logic of the five year land supply and we start eating into our nationally significant pasture, then we are going to stop being able to supply food particularly food that is reliant on grazing coming into the food chain and given the world in which we are living.

“I’m not saying that people shouldn’t move to Cornwall for one minute. But what I think is that there is an issue about geography that says you balance your population against the capacity of your environment to adequately accommodate them. And when I say capacity, I include in that the economy, the land, the resources, food water and so on.

“Too many of the houses that we are building in Cornwall are being built in order to generate income for those who don’t need them and in the process, I think in amongst that, people who do need housing are being exploited by the requirement of the people who own the houses to gain a return on their investment. That to me is an abuse of the housing market, and it is making the housing market ineffable.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said:

“This Government is committed to building a housing market fit for the future and 217,000 new homes were delivered in England last year.

“This is up 15% on the previous year and the highest increase in nine years.

“We have also set out an ambitious programme of reforms to boost housing supply – including planning reform and targeted investment to help us deliver an additional 300,000 properties a year by the mid-2020s.”

However shadow housing minister John Healey said that the housing crisis was getting worse with home ownership levels falling and homelessness and rents continuing to rise.

He said more needed to be done to provide affordable homes: “Our definition of affordable links back to local incomes – so what’s an affordable home for someone in Cornwall on an average income will be very different to what is affordable for someone in Camden in the centre of London, or in Coventry in the West Midlands. We have to tie our definition not to the market but to average local incomes.

“Fixing the housing crisis has got to involve more investment from central government in building more affordable homes, of need both to rent and to buy, stronger planning powers for local authorities, tougher obligations on housebuilders including on things like energy efficiency and good design. It’s got to include a stronger right on first dibs for local people and what gets built, and it’s got to involve getting more land more cheaply available, which is the number one barrier to building more and building more affordable homes. Part of our plan is to get more small and medium-sized house builders into play, so that we are not just in the hands of the big house builders for the new homes that we need.”

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