A letter sent to Wirral Council Opposition Conservative Group leader Ian Lewis by James Brokenshire MP, the Secretary of State for Housing , Communities and Local Government is concerned with the local political debate about how housing need figures are calculated.
“Thank you for your letter of 13 December regarding the standard method for assessing local housing need. I would also like to thank you for taking the time to engage with our recent consultation.
“The technical consultation closed on 7 December and the Government is currently considering the responses received. The response to consultation will be published in due course. I would emphasise that a housing need figure is not a target. Local authorities should make a realistic assessment of the number of homes their communities need, using the standard method as the starting point in the process. Once this has been established, planning to meet that need will require consideration of land availability, relevant constraints, and whether the need is more appropriately met in neighbouring areas. This will then be scrutinised as part of the examination undertaken by an independent inspector”.
Demonstrate a clear path
Wirral Council has been warned if it fails to “demonstrate a clear path” to developing a blueprint for the future of housing in the borough then the Government will take over. In a letter addressed to council leader Phil Davies, secretary of state for housing and local government James Brokenshire warns the town hall must publish an action plan, report monthly to officials on its progress and designate a lead councillor and lead official to progress the preparation of the so-called Local Plan.
Mr Brokenshire states Wirral is one of only 11 authorities who is yet to publish such a plan. He criticised planning policies for not being kept up to date, the last local plan for the borough being adopted in February 2000.
The minister warned that due to Wirral’s “consistent failure” to meet milestones for a local development scheme, it would be quicker for the Government to intervene in preparing a masterplan that would be put in place as soon as possible. Mr Brokenshire believes Wirral’s problems are not caused by it being an area “where there is higher housing pressure” but are due to the fact the council has failed to plan for new homes for residents.
In responding to Mr Brokenshire’s letter town hall boss Phil Davies said he would comply with its demands. The Labour group leader pointed out a councillor and official have been put in place for the Local Plan along with appointing a QC in autumn to ensure the council is fully compliant with legislation.