In November 2011, the Coalition Government, led by David Cameron, set out its ambitions to stimulate the development and construction sector in order to meet the rising demand for housing in England. The document ‘Laying the Foundations: A Housing Strategy for England ‘ sets out the long-term plans for tackling the current critical housing shortage.
The Government states in the document that:
In 2009/10, there were 115,000 new build housing completions in England. Meanwhile, the latest household projections suggest that the number of households will grow by 232,000 per year (average annual figure until 2033).
If this growing demand is to be met, then there needs to be both extensive investment and increased development in the housing sector.
The problem as seen by the Government is wide-reaching: Investors, developers, growing families, growth of tenants and restrictions by the lending banks were all factors that culminated in the stagnation of new housing development; but one of the biggest issues, and probably the most contentious, is where to build these houses.
Land in the UK is at a premium, finding the right location that meets the demands both socially, geographically, and economically, is a challenge, and we’re not talking about a handful of houses here, we’re talking about thousands at any one given time.
As part of the proposals to solve these issues, the Government said it will:
– Free up public sector land with capacity to deliver up to 100,000 new homes – with ‘Build Now, Pay Later’ deals on the table, where there is market demand and where this is affordable and represents value for money, to support builders who are struggling to get finance upfront.
– We will provide more support for local areas that want to deliver larger scale new development to meet the needs of their growing communities – through locally planned large-scale development – with a programme of support for places with the ambition to support new housing development on various scales.
– We have consulted on simplifying planning policy through the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
– We are giving communities new powers to deliver the development they want through Community Right to Build.
Former defence sites especially airfields, have become prime ‘targets’ for housing development, and for a variety of reasons, (many of these have been highlighted in previous posts: Britain’s Airfields – What does the future hold?). However, they are not unique. Other ‘Brown Field’ sites, ex industrial areas, derelict housing estates and so on, are also targets and have also been identified as possible areas for development. The problem with some of these sites is clearing them, many may have contaminated soils or are just ‘inappropriate’ for housing development, and so existing land, adjacent or near to other larger conurbations, is preferred. It would now seem that this is where many of these new developments are heading. (Many of the identified sites are listed in the ‘National Land Use Database of Previously Developed Land 2012 (NLUD-PDL)‘ ).
Adding to this, the Ministry of Defence is desperate to save money and recently gave notice of its intention to close and sell off a number of active sites around the UK, again these have been highlighted previously, (Britain’s Airfields – What does the future hold?). Furthermore, with American interests in European defence also wavering, the possibility of further cuts, or condensing of their activities, is also a possibility on top of those previously identified.
With all this in mind, the Government recently outlined and published its list of the first 14 sites where new ‘Garden Villages’ will be built. One of these is directly on the former airfield at Deenethorpe whilst a second directly affects the currently active site at former Andrews Field.
Whilst neither the Deenethorpe nor Andrews Field development proposals are new, this move certainly signifies the end of flying at Deenethorpe and certain development of one of the UK’s larger former bomber bases. It also threatens flying opportunities in Essex and risks further development on that site.
This move is a major step forward in meeting the current housing crises, but at what cost both environmentally, locally and historically? How much of the history of these sites will be lost or preserved and what does it say about preservation of historical sites in this country? This could well be the ‘thin end of the wedge’ for these old sites – only time will tell.
Further reading and links
RAF Deenethorpe appears in Trail 6
RAF Andrews Field appears in Trail 33
For a full list of the 14 sites designated for development see the BBC report .
The Deenethorpe proposal can be seen as a pdf file here.
News reports about Andrews Field can be found on the Braintree and Witham Times.