Examination of Witness

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:05 pm on 23rd June 2022.

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Andy Street:

Thank you for that question, because this process is pretty bust; it is lovely that the Housing Minister is in the room for this debate. The answer to the question of where is that I have no difficulty with it being assessed by the upper tier planning authority—so, in our case, the met authorities. But I do not think that that is really the problem. The problem is that something systemic is incredibly wrong. We followed up the detail of this using Coventry as the case study, where the system of assessment through the Office for National Statistics has churned a number that is clearly nonsense. It shows that the growth of housing needs in Coventry will be more than 30% over 10 years. In the rest of the West Midlands, the average is about 11%, so you think, “This isn’t right” and you follow the story through. We have had a number of incredibly helpful and very honest conversations with the ONS, which has acknowledged in a letter to me that the number is wrong and is getting more wrong, as the assumptions that it made are not playing out over time. But when the wrongness—if that is not poor English—of the number is revealed, there is nothing in the current system that forces the local authority to review its plan, so there is a huge misstep in the process between that calculation and the actions that are then taken.

I have not raised this issue with the current Housing Minister, but I had lengthy correspondence with the previous Housing Minister. I believe it is an area of huge potential improvement, but the system is clearly broken, and I would be very happy to furnish members of the Committee with all the detail on Coventry, which was such an obvious outlier. Let us be clear that the consequence is that the city council is pursuing a policy that it has to pursue because of the numbers—I do not doubt the council’s internal working—and it is digging up the green belt around Coventry on the basis of spurious calculations.