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Page last updated at 12:24 GMT, Wednesday, 25 August 2010 13:24 UK
Impact of scrapped housing scheme for Somerset

Since the new coalition government came into power, many controversial strategies from the previous Labour government have been scrapped.

Construction worker
About 32,000 fewer homes are to be built in the area

One such policy, the regional spatial strategy (RSS), was particularly controversial in the Somerset area.

It looked at the region's growing population and predicted how many new homes would need to be built over the next 18 years in order to cope.

But the majority of the district councils in the area as well as the unitary authorities in North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset argued that they did not need to build so many homes .

So they welcomed the decision by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to scrap the targets .

He said planning decisions should be made at a local level and handed the responsibility back to local councillors - elected people who know their neighbourhoods.

'Physically impossible'

Within weeks of the announcement, North Somerset District Council announced it was going to build just over half the number of homes the Regional Development Agency had imposed on them (around 15,000, down from more than 26,500).

Elfan Ap Rees, the deputy leader and executive member for strategic planning at the council, said the authority always doubted the figures.

He said: "We have serious infrastructure deficits within North Somerset.

"We have a shortage of employment, so it would have made commuting out of the district worse.

"It would have been physically impossible to get the 9,000 homes they were talking about for Weston-super-Mare within the area they were defining."

So how many homes are now going to be built?

Initially, the target was for around 110,000 homes spread across the area.

But it's now nearer 77,000 - and that's still only an estimate.

• Taunton Deane Borough Council is going to build around 70% of the number of homes that had been suggested for them, around 15,000.

• Bath and North East Somerset say they'll probably construct about 15,000 homes instead of more than 21,000, although the actual number is still to be agreed.

• Only Sedgemoor District Council intends to build roughly the same number as in the document - around 10,000.

• And Mendip District Council actually wanted to build more than what the regional development agency wanted.

• South Somerset and West Somerset district councils are both deciding on their figures.

Critical housing

The charity Shelter is very concerned that there isn't currently enough affordable housing here in the south west, and think the situation can only get worse, unless people put pressure on their councils to build more homes.

They're also worried the government may cut the amount of money spent on affordable housing in the comprehensive spending review in October.

Roger Harding, head of policy at the charity Shelter, said: "The South West is one of the regions where affordable housing is most in demand.

"It really is critical that housing is built in rural areas and urban centres."




SEE ALSO
Town 'has reached housing limit'
23 Mar 09 |  Somerset

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