Article - Housing

I see that plans are afoot for a significant further development of housing next to the Granby Industrial Estate in Chickerell. As this is a site allocated in the local plan, and now opened up by Chickerell link road, and as West Dorset needs to build a large number of new homes over coming years to meet the needs of the population, I assume that this development will go forward. 

It isn't, in itself, on a scale anything like that of the very large housing sites that I have been investigating as part of the review of house building that I have recently been conducting for the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Housing Secretary but I hope that some of the lessons that I have learnt from that review will be applied by West Dorset District Council when considering this development. 

The first relevant lesson I have learnt is that, when large numbers of new homes are being built in a particular place at a particular time, the rate at which they will be built very much depends upon the rate at which the local market is capable of absorbing them - and this rate of absorption increases if there is a mixture of different kinds of things (different sizes, different tenures, different designs...) being built on the site at the same time, because that enables people with different ideas of what they want to live in, different budgets and different family circumstances to find what they want and can afford; whereas if there is just one kind of house, or a very restricted range of houses built on the site, then only people who want and can afford that particular type of housing will be in the market for those homes, so the level of absorption and the rate of building will be much lower. 

The second lesson I have learnt (particularly from visits to the Netherlands and Germany, and our own experience at Poundbury) is that variation can also be much more attractive than uniformity. 

I hope that the District Council will bear these points in mind as it negotiates with the developer. 

Of course, I also hope that the Council will take the same attitude towards any other largish patches of land that get developed in West Dorset over coming years, because the points about absorption and variation hold true in every large site regardless of its precise location - though, of course, the context that surrounds the site as well as the landscape of the site itself will have a profound influence on what it is appropriate to build there. 

In other words, what we need is a variety of variations on a variety of themes instead of replicating dull uniformities in place after place.