Local Plan – Progress?

There has been a lot of activity behind the scenes over the last few weeks, some frustrating and some possibly hopeful.

Please allow me to remind you as to why we are so certain that the current Dwellings Per Annum (dpa) target figure of 597 is simply WRONG. Between 2001 ans 2014 Tendring actually built 365 dpa against a plan target of 425 dpa. The Objectively Assessed Housing Needs (OAHN) study from Peter Brett Associates (PBA), commissioned by TDC, found that ” the downturn in delivery owed more to constrained demand than constrained supply”.¬† The population in Tendring was flat between the 2001 census and the 2011 census. Somehow the OAHN manages to turn a flat population trend, where 365 dpa did not restrict supply, into a future requirement of 597 dpa.

The motion at the last Local Plan committee required TDC planning officers to “investigate”. If they did that it was not apparent to councillors or members of the public. A “workshop” was arranged with the PBA consultant who carried out this work. However, that turned out to be mere repetition – a presentation of their earlier work. I then wrote to the relevant TDC planning officer with specific suggestions for the way forward. You may read the reply here 261015 OAN Cllr Mooney. The identity of the officer concerned has been protected. I am sure you find this response as frustrating as I do. However, I am sure the officer is only doing what they have been asked to do by the Conservative [lead] administration.

Having checked with the TDC head of planning that no further “investigation” as planned, I wrote to Cllr Stock (Con), chairman of the Local Plan Committee and his reply is here Stock Reply. Cllr stock is an elected representative and I see no reason to protect his identity in this case. Again, pretty frustrating.

So it was a surprise last Thursday evening at the Local Plan Committee meeting when we were informed that further work had opened up the possibility of a reduction in the 597 dpa figure after all. Members of the Local Plan Committee were made aware that this work was underway on the morning of the Local Plan committee meeting and have not been made aware of the details.

When it came to vote on a resolution to continue the work to establish the OAHN dpa housing figure, I proposed an amendment that this work should involve sharing the data and calculations that the PBA consultant was using. Without this the consultant is just pulling a rabbit out of a black box. To my surprise the amendment was approved. There was some confusion over the wording of the motion that was actually approved. However, when we see the minutes I do think the officers will finally let us see under the hood.

It has been a bit of a struggle, but it finally seems that we will be able to engage in a meaningful, mathematical way with the OAHN study findings. Given that the findings so far are obviously WRONG, I am hopeful that we will be able to achieve a lower OAHN dpa figure that will command broad support amongst councillors and residents.