Guildford Borough Council has today (18 December 2014) published the West Surrey joint SHMA (Strategic Housing Market Assessment) prepared jointly for them and the boroughs of Woking and Waverley, by the consultants GL Hearn.
GL Hearn prepared a draft SHMA for Guildford borough council in January 2014, with headline housing numbers in a range from 670-800 dwellings per annum. This generated a storm of protest from the community. After public criticism, that draft SHMA was subjected to a review by Edge Analytics, who said that for some matters they could only give the report “an amber tick”.
A revised draft SHMA was prepared by GL Hearn in May 2014, with revised numbers in a range from 652- 780 homes per year (not a wholesale adjustment). This was then adopted by Guildford Borough Council in their draft plan without any application of constraints (despite the fact that they could have chosen to apply significant constraints because 89% of the borough is Greenbelt, as stressed by ministerial guidance). GBC also proposed to backdate that housing target to 2011 to generate a housing target for Guildford borough, by 2031, of 13040. It was pointed out by community members that Guildford had met its objectively assessed housing need to date, so no backdating was required.
It was also pointed out by a number of commentators -including the Office of National Statistics -that the draft SHMA still contained a number of errors, and if the errors were corrected, the calculation of objectively assessed housing need could be shown to be overstated, possibly by as much as 200 homes per annum. It was also pointed out that Guildford Borough Council – under the previous administration – had gone to the High Court in 2010 to campaign for an interim housing number of 322 homes per year, because the “top down target” of 422 homes per year was judged unsustainable. That battle was won – the High Court agreed that Guildford could not support 422 homes per year and imposed an interim target of 322 homes.
A number of commentators asked for the calculations and the computer model underlying the GL Hearn analysis to be provided. This request (prepared formally under a freedom of information request, and followed up with an appeal to the Information Commissioner) was refused.
The full combined SHMA has now been published.
GL Hearn have now produced a revised SHMA on a combined basis for the housing market area of Woking Waverley and Guildford. The numbers for Guildford are now 620-816 homes per year, doubling the previous target (and more), and supporting GL Hearn’s calculations prepared in January 2014.
Guildford Greenbelt Group will study the new SHMA and will prepare detailed comments on the document. The SHMA is available on this link: