Too many houses

The Woking Core Strategy sets a target for delivery of 4,964 housing units up to 2027 with 2,180 of these required in the town centre (Policy CS10).

Given that this is an important target for WBC and its Planning Department, I would have expected that, as in any well run organisation or business, it would be easy to measure and project progress against this key target, providing visibility and guidance for officers and stakeholders in the Woking Borough. Unfortunately understanding the progress and projected achievement is anything but easy, with numbers spread across a variety of documents and reports and no easily visible summary available to guide decisions and application of policy. Nevertheless, with some assistance from WBC Planning Department I have been able to summarise what I believe is the situation as of March 2019:

2,365 dwellings have been completed to March 2019 (AM8 and Table 8 of the Proposed Additional Modifications to the SAPD)

2,037 Extant planning permissions exist (Annual Monitoring Report 2019)

1,251 Dwellings are projected to be delivered in Woking town centre on sites not reliant on the HIF upgrades, to be delivered through local plan designations/planning permissions. (Source email from WBC planning)

268 Dwellings to be delivered on other identified sites across WB, not included in HIF bid. (Table 7, Housing Land Supply Position Statement 2019.) This is an overly pessimistic number which has been factored at 40% of potential dwellings and is projected to 2024 only, whilst the Core Strategy target runs until 2027. This already includes 208 at Sheer House in West Byfleet.

336 Dwellings to be delivered by “windfall sites” which, based upon WBC monitoring data typically run at 42 per year.

The above numbers total: 6,257 against a target of 4,964 or an excess of 1,293 or 26% above the target.

As the Hosing Land Supply Position Statement 2019 only takes a 5-year horizon, I believe that it is reasonable to factor the numbers of dwellings in Table 7 by 55% to project to March 2027, instead of 40% to 2024. This adds an additional 101 dwellings and changes the 268 number above to 369.

The above numbers now total: 6,358 against a target of 4,964 or an excess of 1,394 (28%) above the target.

Now it is sensible to have a buffer to assure achievement of this important goal. The Site Allocation DPD has assumed a buffer by choosing not to include windfall sites (336) in its projections, although the Annual Monitoring Report appears to adopt a 5% figure as per NPPF guidelines, which would be 200 dwellings.

So, including a buffer for non delivery, WBC would appear to be on target to deliver between 6,022 and 6,158 dwellings against a target of 4,964 or an excess of between 1,058 and 1,194 dwellings. This means that WBC is likely to exceed its net new housing units target by between 21.3 and 24.1%.

These figures are substantiated in the Annual Monitoring report (2019) which calculates that, at its 5-year horizon there is a surplus of 1,294 houses above its annual target of 292, taking into account NPPF buffer and under supply (AO2 – Housing Delivery Test). “Housing trajectories show that housing completions are expected to achieve or exceed the annual housing requirement of 292 over subsequent monitoring periods” and that “that Woking Borough Council amply meets the Housing Delivery Test on the basis of completions over the past three years”.

According to the NPPF land should only be taken from the Green Belt in exceptional circumstances and all other reasonable options for meeting local development needs have been fully examined, including the use of suitable brownfield sites.

I therefore conclude that there is no justification for taking any land from the Green Belt in Woking’s SADPD.

Furthermore, it would be both more transparent and useful for all involved if the cumulative actual and projected performance against this target be clearly documented annually in the Annual Monitoring Report so that any interested party or stakeholder can easily see the status.

Martin Bett

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