Justifying need? (2)

Another extract from ‘Going West? Housing, migration and population growth in Cornwall.’

Following on from yesterdays extract:

In practice the government defines ‘objectively assessed need’ even more narrowly. Their key ‘test of soundness’ has become the DCLG household projections, which are used as a ‘proxy measure for objectively assessed need’ and ‘the benchmark against which examiners will assess housing requirements’. So have DCLG household projections been any more accurate than ONS projections?

The answer is clearly no. In the 2000s they were even more wildly inaccurate. As with the population forecasts, these consistently overestimated Cornwall’s household growth, by an even greater margin than the population projections. If we were to revise the SHMNA target and allow for this tendency to grossly inflate future household growth in Cornwall, the housing total would have to be reduced further still to 29,800.

In passing, the SHMNA briefly notes the discrepancy between ONS forecasts and projections on the one hand and the actual outcome on the other. The 2011 Census showed that ‘the population had not grown to the extent anticipated through the most up-to-date official sub-national population projections (2010 base)’. Yet this intrusion of reality is short-lived. The SHMNA hurriedly moves on to assert that official projections have ‘improved’. Meanwhile, Cornwall Council’s planners admit the census data show an ‘apparent slowdown in population and households’. The word ‘apparent’ suggests the census somehow contains a provisional conclusion and that it may turn out to be wrong. This is relegated to a cautionary note while Cornwall Council is ‘looking to better understand it’. In the meantime, they continue to accept the official projections, however faulty they have proved in the past, as ‘robust evidence’ for the future.


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