UK growth triggers housing target risk

A massive rethink on long-term house building and infrastructure plans could be needed after projections for showing higher population growth emerged this week.

The Optimum Population Trust (OPT) claims that figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) would place a huge burden on housing and the environment.

The ONS estimates that the UK population will rise by 10.5 million to 71 million by 2031. The forecasts are significantly higher than projections published two years ago. Long-term projections envisage a population of up to 85 million by 2081.

OPT advisory council spokeswoman Rosamund McDougall called for a national population policy that spells out how many people the UK's environment is able to support.

She said the projected growth would "blow a huge hole in any national climate change strategy and impose big strains on infrastructure and environment".

At current household formation rates, she added, there would need to be four million additional homes by 2020 rather than the current target of three million.

ONS head of demography Guy Goodwin said the figures should prompt a massive reappraisal of plans for housing, transport, education and the health service.

The ONS will be briefing government departments on the latest figures, but a spokeswoman said it is up to them to set policy.

However, the DCLG said it would wait for sub-national projections due next year to see whether it needs to reconsider housing targets.

A spokeswoman said: "The 2004 sub-national population projections remain the best and most current evidence for our household projections. At 240,000 new homes a year, the targets set in the housing green paper exceed the average of 223,000 new households being formed each year up to 2026."

RTPI secretary-general Robert Upton said the projections underline the need for a national spatial planning framework to integrate infrastructure provision and move growth to underperforming areas.

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