Crawley's political groups split on reaction to planning changes announced by Michael Gove
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For years, planning authorities up and down the country have warned the powers-that-be that they simply could not fulfil their housing targets.
Between 2018 and 2021, Crawley was told to build 2,025 homes – it only managed 1,495.
Now the government has said that in future, centrally-dictated targets would be ‘advisory’ instead of mandatory.
The new rules will mean that town halls will be allowed to build fewer homes if they can show that hitting the targets would significantly change the character of an area.
He said: “If I thought for a moment that it might stop the nearby Tory councils from building expensive five-bedroom houses all around Crawley’s borders, like those already allowed at Pease Pottage, I might have considered these reforms a positive piece of news.
“However, the strong likelihood is that it will just mean they can fudge building in their own towns and villages and build even more around Crawley.”
Over the years Crawley has fallen victim to developments encroaching its boundary.
But neighbouring districts such as Horsham and Mid Sussex have also had their issues.
They have been required to pick up the slack when Crawley’s limited land meant the borough was unable to accept more housing.
Another concern has centred around the requirement for planning authorities to be able to show that they have a five-year supply of housing land.
If they couldn’t, developers were more likely to be granted planning permission on appeal, leading to problems such as infilling, with random developments dotted throughout the town’s once well-planned neighbourhoods.
The five-year supply requirement will be one of the things changed under the new rules as long as councils have an up-to-date Local Plan.
If they don’t, they will still need to show a four-year supply.
Mr Crow said: “A forced requirement for unrealistic housing numbers per local authority risks poor planning, with new building in locations that are unsuitable for a variety of reasons, often environmental.
“There is a need to build more homes, but it is right that local communities have a say in the needs of their area.”
He added that the rule change would be a ‘step in the right direction for Crawley’ when it came to stopping or reducing the scale of proposed developments such as those West of Ifield.
Mr Jones agreed there was a need to review how housing targets were calculated but said the government appeared to have ‘lost its own grip’ on those targets.
He accused the government of being ‘a hostage to [its] own MPs, terrified of upsetting residents in well-heeled areas resistant to any forms of development whatsoever’.
Mr Jones added: “The sad thing is due to the constraints on Crawley due to its compact nature and proximity to Gatwick, any unmet housing need there may be in the borough is even less likely to be delivered by the surrounding areas as a result of this.
“I’m unable to predict how that will play out precisely, but it’s unlikely to be in Crawley’s favour.”