Government forecasts claiming 45,900 new homes are needed in Bradford over the next 15 years could be wide of the mark by as much as 8,000, a new independent report has revealed.
The study, commissioned by Bradford Council, shows the actual number of new homes needed by 2028 could be as low as 37,572. Its highest estimate is 43,603.
It means if the report hadn’t been commissioned, and the original figure was followed, land for between 2,000 and 8,000 homes could have been allocated unnecessarily.
Bradford Council is currently drawing up its Local Plan, which will dictate how many houses need building in the district before 2028 and where they should go.
But the Council hasn’t committed to setting a lower housing target in light of the report – only that its findings would be taken into account as part of a “wider body of evidence”.
A number of councillors had questioned the high housing number set by the Government in 2007 and last year Independents sitting on the Council asked for an external company to check the figures.
The report, carried out by GVA Property Consultants and Edge Analytics at a cost of £17,000, is expected to be made public in a week’s time, but its initial findings have been revealed to the Telegraph and Argus.
The consultants said they had come up with their higher and lower estimates by looking at different scenarios, such as the number of new jobs likely to be created in the years to come.
They said by 2028 they expected between 36,478 and 42,333 new households, meaning the district would need between 37,572 and 43,603 homes, assuming a three per cent building vacancy rate.
The original government forecast, of 45,900 homes, came from the Regional Spatial Strategy, a legally-binding planning target imposed by the Labour Government, which has recently been revoked by the Coalition Government.
From now on, local authorities will be responsible for setting their own targets, but can choose to stick with the old Government figures.
Councillor Adrian Naylor (Ind, Craven), who requested the independent study last year, said the original figure had been flawed because it had just been a proportion of a national target.
He said: “The Regional Spatial Strategy, as the Government’s own planning advisory service said, was not based on evidence that we could use. What it was, was a share of a figure of two million houses that the previous government said the country needed. It was just a proportion of that.”
He said the report gave new, evidence-based figures which Bradford Council could use to set its own targets.
He said: “What we are doing is making sure we have the right data so we can have the debate about what Bradford needs.” Councillor Val Slater, executive member with responsibility for housing, said the Council would take the consultants’ report into account, as part of a larger body of evidence, when drawing up its new target.
She said: “The report only makes recommendations which the Council will consider as part of a wider body of evidence when it makes a decision on a district-wide annual housing target for the next draft of the Core Strategy part of the Local Plan.”
He said it was all well and good setting targets, but developers weren’t building the homes they already had permission for.
He said: “As the Telegraph and Argus reported, at the moment we have got 11,000 homes with planning permission in the district which haven’t been built, and there are a number of other sites which were allocated for housing and haven’t even got planning permission.”
Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, leader of the Liberal Democrats at Bradford Council, said her party had objected to the original housing figures.
She said: “We always took a very strong line that the calculation was flawed.”
Coun Sunderland said no more land needed to be allocated for housing.
She said: “The problem with Bradford is it has got more than enough land allocated, if we add up the empty houses and land already allocated.”
A number of communities across the district have led impassioned fights to save green fields from development.
Menston Action Group is battling plans to build about 300 houses on greenfield sites in Derry Hill and Bingley Road. And Greenhill Action Group is leading a similar campaign to protect a greenfield site at Sty Lane, Micklethwaite.
Elizabeth Helmich, of the Heaton Residents’ Association, has been fighting to protect the district’s open spaces for several years.
She said: “We have got to the point where Bradford is moving further and further out and there is less and less in the centre.”