Will the relaxation of planning regulations help ordinary people in Dorset?

In the House of Commons on Sept 6th, South Dorset MP Richard Drax asked Eric Pickles (Secretary of State, Communities and Local Government) if he could reassure local councillors that in south Dorset, they and they alone, will have the final say on who builds what where?

Eric Pickles replied saying that “provided that they work in partnership with the local community, and provided that they ensure that housing needs are met for future generations of people who want to live and work in and enjoy that beautiful county, and whose children want to be able to stay there, the answer is, of course, yes.”

Is it a pre-requisite that all MP’s have to abandon reality when they get elected? Dorset property prices are currently only surpassed by those in Surrey in www.thebigpropertylist.co.uk “league table”, whilst average earnings in Dorset (excluding Poole & Bournemouth) are the lowest in the South-West. Ex-South Dorset MP Jim Knight said these findings were ‘no great surprise’. “Dorset’s wages are on a par with County Durham and other places more closely associated with deprivation and poverty.”

Average house price in County Durham £115,204.

Average House price in Dorset              £286,658

(Source https://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/in_depth/uk_house_prices/html/19ug.stm)

The truth of the matter is that relaxing planning consent will do nothing to enable my son to, in Mr Pickles’ words,“live and work in and enjoy that beautiful county, and … be able to stay there”

What this legislation really means is that people who already own properties here will be able to “improve” their homes, so that they can increase their value and make them even more unaffordable to the young, local population.“The relaxation of planning regulations is seen by the Government as a way of helping hard-pressed homeowners to add value to their investment in bricks and mortar at a time when house prices are falling sharply.” (neighbourhoodwatch.net)

I live on the Isle of Purbeck – an area with a high proportion of second homes, and precious little prospect of affordable housing opportunities for local people, let alone young people starting out.

Which is why over 22% of the local population are aged 65+ (the national average is just 16%). (Source: https://www.dorsetforyou.com/media/pdf/q/5/Purbeck_District_Population_profile.pdf) and, Just 7.6% of Dorset’s population are aged 20-29 years, significantly lower than the national average of 12.7%. (Source: https://www.dorsetforyou.com/media/pdf/r/j/No1Changing_age_structure.pdf

This legislation will do nothing to alleviate the status quo. There is no incentive to build any housing for sale or rent at reasonable prices, when so much more profit can be made by building larger properties and cash in on the “desirable area” status of Purbeck. It’s human nature – or, to put it bluntly, greed.

Granted, there is the much publicized “affordable housing” development in Worth Matravers. A village where “more than half of the 174 properties are said to be holiday homes” and “average homes in the village now cost about £400,000”.

(Source https://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/countryside/4995829/Rural-revolt-gathers-pace-as-upmarket-new-homes-vandalised.html )

So, how many homes are we talking about? 50? 25? 15? Nope… Just 5. Five.

Unfortunately, the “window of opportunity” has been missed. Action should have been taken back in 1980, when rural properties were still affordable and available, and the flood of second-homers had not yet begun. There is no real chance of affordable housing being available in suitable quantities in Dorset’s villages. Money always talks loudest, and no amount of piecemeal appeasement legislation by the Government is going to change this, despite the words of Mr Pickles, and the protestation of Mr Drax. The exodus of youth and the gradual decline of local shops, pubs, and infrastructures will continue, until there’s nothing left but charity shops, retirement homes, estate agents and tourists.

Chris Petrie