Speaker’s Corner: Demand for new housing is council’s toughest challenge

Andrew Williams
Andrew Williams

One of the most difficult challenges facing local councils across the country and especially in the South of England is the challenge of meeting the demand for new housing.

The government requires us to plan to meet the needs of our Borough and with people generally living longer and increasing numbers of people living alone the demand for more homes continues to increase.

Here in Dacorum we have been working on our local plan, the Core Strategy for several years and last year this was approved by the planning inspector.

This plan is a blueprint for where new housing as well as leisure, retail and other community facilities should be developed between now and 2031.

Whilst Dacorum has so far been successful in keeping the vast majority of new developments on previously developed (brownfield) sites this is becoming increasingly difficult as sites are redeveloped to provide new housing or commercial space.

In order to provide the housing the borough needs we have had to take the difficult decision to release some Green Belt sites for housing.

In the Core Strategy these sites are identified as Local Allocations (LA sites) and last week we opened a consultation on how these sites should be developed to provide a mixture of new housing, shopping and other facilities such as schools and community buildings.

Plans also include a minimum provision for 35% affordable housing, vital to help the many local people on Dacorum’s housing register who are seeking housing to rent.

Whilst the principal of developing these sites has been agreed, the details of how they will be developed is still to be decided and that is why we are now seeking your views on the proposals.

Over the next few weeks there will be exhibitions across the borough and I hope you will take the opportunity to visit and make your comments.

Consultation documents and more information are online at www.dacorum.gov.uk/siteallocations .

Information is also available in local libraries and at Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted Civic Centre and Victoria Hall, Tring.

Of course the Core Strategy is about more than just housing numbers, it seeks to ensure that other infrastructure needs are meets.

As the local council and planning authority we can meet some of those needs, others will be provided by other agencies and most of us would agree that hospital provision is the highest priority for Dacorum.

Unfortunately this is a matter for the NHS and not something that the council can directly control itself.

We do share all our new housing figures with other service providers to help them plan how they deliver their services for the residents of Dacorum, and we work with them to make sure the space can be found for these services to be provided.

The way our borough develops over the next 15 years is important for everyone and I hope that you will take the opportunity to visit our exhibitions or website to find out more and help influence the plans for development on these key sites.