East Sussex Councils meet with Minister of State

East Sussex Council Leaders and Chief Executives met with the Minister of State (Minister for Housing) the Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP, on Tuesday 20 July.

The Leader and Chief Executive of Rother District Council along with Leaders, Cabinet Members and Chief Executives from East Sussex County Council, Eastbourne and Hastings Borough Councils, and Lewes and Wealden District Councils were present to discuss key issues affecting the delivery of each council’s local plan.

The key issues discussed were in relation to matters around plan delivery and the dwelling numbers each council has been allocated to build by Government.

Cllr Jonathan Vine-Hall, Portfolio Holder for Strategic Planning at Rother District Council, said: “There are a number of issues that collectively we felt needed be addressed with Government if we are to be successful in delivering local plans that meet the needs of our residents and the environment.”

“As councils we need better control of the delivery of housing that we grant permission for to allow us to move delivery forward. Currently, we are in a situation where planning applications are granted and not built out for a number of years, if at all. This has a huge knock on effect on our ability to deliver housing in the right places and at the right time, alongside the timely investment in infrastructure.”

Councillors have concerns, as do Rother residents, about the number of houses being built versus the adequate provision of healthcare and education services, robust service infrastructure such as water, sewerage and broadband, as well as being able to maintain roads and pavements.

There is concern that local towns and villages will be unable to cope with high numbers of additional housing without greater funding for essential services.  

Cllr Vine-Hall continued: “Across the county, we have significant numbers of consents approved, but the current rules do not allow for many of these to be counted within our 5 year supply. We have therefore asked the Minister to review the approach to the 5 year land supply and provide us with additional powers to stop developers land banking consents.” 

All local authorities in England are required to have a local plan detailing their positive vision for the future of each area, and a framework for addressing housing needs and other economic, social and environmental priorities.

Cllr Vine-Hall added: “Government provide us as Local Authorities with a housing target using their national formula. This formula uses household projections from 2014, (ignoring lower projections from 2016 and 2018), ignores environmental and other constraints within the county and builds in an over-supply of homes in order to drive down house prices. We have asked the Minister to address these clear flaws in the formula in order to reduce the number of homes we are required to build across the county.”

Once the Local Planning Authority has finished preparing and consulting on a local plan it is submitted to the Secretary of State who then appoints a Planning Inspector to carry out an independent examination on behalf of the Planning Inspectorate (PINS). The Councils also raised concerns with the Minister around the length of time independent examination can take and the uncertainly this creates within local communities.

Following the outcome of the discussion, a further meeting has been requested to hear detailed feedback from the Minister on the points raised.

Published: 22nd July 2021