John Harvey (Express November 25) highlighted an interesting statistic. While in East Sussex the death rate has been exceeding the birth rate for some years, the population is predicted to rise by a ‘staggering’ 9.7 per cent.
There are many consequences of the rise in population, but of immediate concern to Lewes constituency residents is central government’s imposition (via Lewes District Council) for 6,900 new homes in the period 2010 – 2030, while in Seaford alone the requirement is for 553 new homes.
Council’s Local Plans and residents Neighbourhood Plans to some extent are a mirage.
While they appear to devolve responsibility to local councils and the residents themselves, there remains the legal requirement to fulfil central government’s housing diktats. But it’s true that such plans in theory should have significant value in so far as they are meant at least to empower local people to determine the locations and specification for future developments and to highlight related issues of concern to the community (such as effect on school places, medical services, traffic, etc).
Unfortunately it would seem that the very significant voluntary contribution of local residents in terms of their expertise and time is not as definitive as they might hope because of the need for compliance with rules and regulations and, of course, the pressure to deal with the housing crisis. The Henfield Neighbourhood Plan excluded development of a particular site of significant potential value to a particular developer but was approved by the government examiner and then by the people of Henfield in a local referendum.
Then on appeal by the developers, the Henfield Neighbourhood Plan and democratic decision of Henfield residents was overturned by the High Court. It seems that money talks and highly paid lawyers and business objectives can take precedence to the will of local people, particularly in the context of housing.
Since the housing crisis is a national problem created by successive governments’ failure to manage or control the rise in population, it is likely that Mr Harvey’s question to local authorities ‘just how much longer should we go on taking orders from central government to build, build, build’ and to central government ‘how many more millions of people from overseas are we going to allow into this small already overcrowded island’ will fall on deaf ears.
One does wonder why local residents, having voted for the successive Labour, Conservative/LibDem Coalition and Conservative governments which failed to manage the problem, seem surprised by the inevitable consequences.
Cllr Alan Latham
Chairman UKIP Lewes