Before Christmas Cornwall Council was accused of being ‘anti-development’ by a group of upcountry planners and councillors. Meanwhile, planning applications regularly assert that there has been an ‘under-supply’ of housing in Cornwall in recent years. Indeed, the Council’s own Housing Evidence Base of 2013 uncritically churned out the same phrase; there has been an ‘under supply of housing’. Of course, this claim benefits the project to increase the build rate and thus population growth in Cornwall. But let’s look at it a bit more closely and compare the supply of housing in Cornwall since 2010 with that in other places.
The results are shown on the map below. (The sources are the DCLG’s Live Table 122, ‘Net additional dwellings by local authority’, dwelling stock tables at the Welsh Assembly’s StatsWales site and the 2011 Census, Table ks101EW.)
It turns out that more houses have been built in Cornwall relative to our resident population than ANYWHERE in England or Wales. If this is ‘under-supply’ then the rest of Britain is much more under-supplied. In Cornwall, from 2010-15, 222 houses were built for every 10,000 residents. Only the growth hotspot of Cambridgeshire (217) and Somerset (215) come close. In the neighbouring part of England – Devon – 169 houses were built per 10,000 people, a figure just 76% that of Cornwall. Amazingly, even Buckinghamshire, which includes the new town of Milton Keynes, has seen fewer houses built in relation to its population (at 208 per 10,000 people).
Most parts of England have far lower levels, 145 in London for example. Meanwhile, counties where the population is actually growing faster than Cornwall, like Lincolnshire, are only seeing a build rate of 157 (or 71% that in Cornwall). In Wales, house building is running at even lower levels, the highest in west Wales at 137, or just 62% the Cornish level.
This is not just an issue of providing more houses to meet demand from second-house buyers. In Cumbria, an English county also suffering high second house ownership, an old declining industrial sector, many tourism businesses and at a similar distance from London, the number of houses that have been built is 111 per 10,000 residents, just half the rate here in Cornwall.
Cornwall Council’s Leader Cllr Pollard complacently says that ‘it’s not helpful to describe Cornwall as a developers’ paradise’. But on the basis of these figures Cornwall seems to be well qualified for that label. It has more developer activity and is more attractive to developers than anywhere in England or Wales. Is Cllr Pollard not aware of this? Does he care?
This situation is grossly unfair. Cornwall has experienced some of the fastest, if not the fastest, extension of its built environment in the UK since the 1960s. Isn’t it about time we demanded a fair deal for Cornwall? And isn’t it about time our elected representatives joined that demand for fair treatment rather then continue to bury their heads in the sand and deny there’s a problem?