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housing backlash

PUBLISHED: 16:48 16 July 2008 | UPDATED: 09:57 23 August 2010

CAMPAIGNERS fear dangerous and damaging plans to increase house building in the south-east could leave a devastating 20 year legacy. Today the Government is expected to release a revised south-east plan after being advised to build MORE homes. It come

CAMPAIGNERS fear 'dangerous and damaging' plans to increase house building in the south-east could leave a devastating 20 year legacy.

Today the Government is expected to release a revised south-east plan after being advised to build MORE homes.

It comes a week after Bovis Homes, Barratt Homes and Persimmon announced major redundancies, sales slumps and poor share performance. Financial advisors have also predicted a recession within months.

Dr Hilary Newport, from the Kent branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), warned: "We are very concerned about this. I am very nervous that there will be a big increase compared to the original south-east plan and we will push ahead with more than we can accommodate.

"The original figure of 28,900 a year was set out two years ago during an economic boom and it is dangerous and damaging if we still bury our collective national head in the sand.

"It takes a very small blip in the housing market to have serious repercussions. My heart goes out to the builders and those being laid off but as we are facing a financial crisis. It is dangerous to build more and more. It must be the right housing, the right places and at the right level. In 20 years time we could be leaving a devastating legacy if we ignore this.

"This should remain about regeneration and not sheer numbers of housing. We must remain vigilant and take in to the consideration the current market instead of setting a 20 year plan and pushing ahead no matter what."

She also warned the UK could face a situation like Spain in years to come, where houses are built and stand unsold for years, if they do not remain 'vigilant' over the next decade.

The National Housing and Planning Advice Unit, an independent body set up by the Government, is recommending that housing stock should be increased by between 18 and 55 per cent to between 37,800 and 49,700 homes a year. This compares with 28,900 homes a year in the draft South-East Plan.

A decision is expected before Government recess on July 22 and could be as early as today.

In the Thames Gateway part of the plan, which includes much of north Kent, over 100,000 new homes are planned in what is described as one of the biggest 'growth areas'.

CPRE senior planner Kate Gordon, speaking about the unit, said: "On the evidence of what the unit has done so far, they seem seriously out of touch with the real world.

"The housing industry is in crisis. Lack of affordable housing continues to be a major problem. Their priorities simply do not match the task at hand. Their analysis we believe to be fundamentally flawed and their recommendations damaging and divorced from the real world."

Kent County Council has already urged the Government to reject increases.

Roger Gough, cabinet member for regeneration, said: "We have a set of numbers that have already been through a lengthy and rigorous process in public as part of the South East Plan - and we should stick to them.

He added: "It would be wrong to add to the pressure on Kent and other parts of the south east at this stage.

"The increase recommended by this Government agency seems disproportionate to our needs. We should be very wary of the government taking this seriously."

Bovis Homes, based in New Ash Green, near Swanley, have announced a 40 per cent slash in staff due to a mortgage squeeze.

Total staff numbers, both office and on-site workers, would be cut by 40 per cent, equalling 400 jobs nationally.

It said it is operating against the "worst market backdrop" in many years.

Completed house sales by the group in the six months to June 30 plunged to 851, down a massive 32 per cent on sales (1,256) in the same period a year ago.

The group joins other big-name housebuilders like Persimmon Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Developments to announce big job cuts.

Barratt Developments, who are creating the West Hill development in Dartford and a block of flats in Gravesend is to axe up to 1,000 jobs, almost 15 per cent of its workforce.

CPRE Kent is keen to attract members in north Kent. Visit: www.cprekent.org.uk or call 01303 815180.

Have you been made redundant due to the credit crunch? Have you been hit by the building crisis? Call the newsdesk on 01474 320753.

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