‘The Great Wirral Green Belt Debacle’ shows no sign of abating with Wirral Council and central government playing pass the parcel (of land) and continuing to dispute statistical information which is being used to influence Wirral’s future housing needs . Read more here
It all gives the impression that politicians and public officials don’t know what they’re doing or that the continuing threat to Wirral’s Green Belt is borne of ignorance of the facts or from questionable political/financial motives.
Thankfully we have ‘The Prof’ on hand to waft the smoke away from the mirrors . Here’s his take on the latest developments and a copy of a letter he’s written to James Brokenshire ,the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
This council never seems to learn. Having cried wolf on the green belt issue before it now does it again, helped along by our crazy central government. Let’s look at the facts, one more time, and leave out the Mickey Mouse stuff. The council says it has identified 91 sites which could host 2,400 houses. Peel Holdings have confirmed to the council that they CAN deliver a minimum of 2,900 houses in the local plan period and up to 6,450 houses subject to assistance with infrastructure costs. At the current rate of recovery (by the council themselves) 3,570 empty houses could be brought back into use over the plan period. This gives us 8,870 to 12,420 houses available on brown field sites. But the 803 houses per annum 2017 government target requires a total of 12,045 houses. So at best WE STILL need NO green belt land. At worst we need GB land for 3,175 houses. But the council plan aims to release 4,900 acres : sufficient at normal densities for 71,000 houses. So AT WORST we would need just 4.5% of the green belt the council wants to release for housing development to their speculator friends.That is 220 acres, NOT 4,900 acres. Yet again Wirral residents are being treated with contempt by this council. If the council decide to release the 50 sites in their green belt plan do not be fooled into thinking it has anything to do with central government. It is to do with council politics and greed. How much longer will Wirral voters put up with this perfidious mob?
Dear MinisterI am a retired professor of mathematical modelling who has been lookingclosely at the old and new housing needs methodology. The new methodology has the merit of simplicity and consistency which I understood was your aim.I can though, understand your frustration that it gives far lower UK housing needs numbers than you hoped for, for policy reasons. However despite the lobbying you have no doubt received from disappointed developers and house builders the basic methodology may not be at fault. I trust the formal statistical review now underway will look closely at the ONS population projections used.As you are aware something went badly awry between the 2001 and 2011 censuses resulting in large apparent population discontinuities in many locations.The ‘corrections’ then made, left ‘fingerprints’ on the historical data later used to make the population projections for the standard method. In my own area of Merseyside this has caused havoc! The forecasts have been very unstable as we moved forward from 2012 to 2014 to 2016.More importantly, to take my own Wirral LA as an example, the projected net migration into Wirral is at least 3X greater than actually experienced in the recent decade, based on several other ONS data sources and independent local time series such as voter registrations.Since the Wirral internal, natural population is falling this ‘mythical’ migration greatly inflates the ONS population projections and consequently housing needs. Instead of 800 houses per annum (on the old methodology) and perhaps 440 (on the new) , a more likely number is in the range zero to 200 if we also consider your official, ONS low migration scenarios.This excludes the need to replace local demolitions and the effects of changing housing mix needs. Now I am sure that in many other local authorities across the country the census problem has worked in the opposite direction, underestimating actual population growth and transfers between authorities. In conclusion, the UK population projections are suspect and ideally should be checked, local authority by local authority, tedious though this is. We shall be doing this in detail for Wirral to provide statistical evidence for any future investigations by your housing inspectors into local planning intentions. I hope this note is of help.Best wishes,Professor D P Gregg (retired)