Cut in homes allays fears of 'cherry picking'
Campaigners have welcomed a move to scale back plans for up to 200,000 new homes in the Westcountry amid fears that developers might "cherry pick" profitable countryside and coastal locations.
Cornwall Council had proposed allowing as many as 57,000 new homes to be built over the next 20 years in a bid to tackle housing waiting lists and satisfy a growing, and ageing, population.
But the council's planning policy advisory panel on Friday narrowly voted to lower the target considerably – to 38,000 – a recommendation which now requires Cabinet approval before it is submitted to the Secretary of State.
Evidence from the census in 2011 that people are not moving to the South West in the numbers previously thought has forced a rethink of targets which have attracted dire predictions that soulless suburbs would sprawl across the region.
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Councillors are also concerned that builders are "sitting" on 18,000 extant planning permissions in the Duchy – many in urban areas and on brown field sites – which are not currently considered viable in the current market. This has raised fears that setting the bar too high might allow house-builders to argue in favour of developing green-field sites in the absence of activity in town and city.
Mike Bruton, chairman of the Council for the Protection of Rural England in Cornwall during the consultation, welcomed the reduction but said the figures were "plucked from thin air.
"If we want to urbanise Cornwall then we can set it high but if we want to maintain what is really special about rural counties we need to moderate growth and focus on those who are already here," he said.
"There is plenty of brown-field land around but developers want to cherry pick the best agricultural land – we should take up the slack before doling out any more permissions."
An analysis of local plans across the region by the Western Morning News this year revealed councils were preparing to allow more than 200,000 homes to be built in the next two decades.
In Cornwall, a coalition of concerned groups called for a halt to a "damaging" policy of expansion which could see the population top a million by the end of the century.
The Cabinet member for planning, Mark Kaczmarek, has repeatedly called for a figure of 48,000, the authority's "preferred option", and warned that setting too low a target might see the Government impose a figure.