In his response to the plan’s consultation, Bob welcomed many aspects of the plan including farm diversification, shopping areas in town centres, support for housing above existing shops, a shared path route in the West Wight, improved connectivity between Island Line and the Steam Railway and conserving and enhancing the historic environment.
But he said that the council should seek an exceptional circumstance from the government to lower the current target of 640 homes to 200-250 homes a year which he believed should be built for Islanders.
He told the consultation: “I believe that the housing building on the Island needs to serve – as much as possible – the needs of Islanders. In general, I believe that we need a policy that can support sustainable development.
“However, I strongly oppose the Government-imposed housing targets accepted in the Island Plan. Therefore, I will not be supporting the Island Plan in its current form.”
The Island Plan sets out the council’s aims for planning. It deals with future needs and opportunities in relation to infrastructure, homes, jobs and businesses, community facilities and the environment. It will also set out the principles that will guide future development.
Bob explained the housing target of 600 plus homes was not deliverable due to the lack of building capacity on the Island. He said the Island does not have the infrastructure to support significant extra housing which is expected to take place over the next 15 years.
He added the current housing is not being built for Islanders because there is almost no population growth on the Island. Most developments are not designed for local people, but for the broader South East England housing market.
“We allow the building of three and four-bed houses when demand from Islanders is for one and two-bedroom properties. As a result, our young people are unable to find or afford the right housing and are forced off the Island,” he said.
He said the Island’s tourist economy would be damaged if the housing targets are too high and added that the “beauty of our Island is actually key to its sustainable success – from attracting high-skilled jobs and employees with the outdoor lifestyle we can offer, to sustaining and enhancing the tourist experience”.
“Destroying our landscape to build sprawl greenfield housing that Islanders can’t afford is directly counter to building a sustainable economy and the interests of Islanders.
He said that by accepting targets that it cannot fulfil, the Council would leave itself open to developers to be able to cherry-pick greenfield sites and force through inappropriate developments. “It would be considerably better for the Council to challenge housing figures now than accept one it has no hope of fulfilling,” he explained.
“I believe that the Council – with my support – needs to request that the Island seeks Exceptional Circumstance to change its allocated housing target and to agree a more ambitious agenda for providing housing for Islanders.
“Exceptional Circumstance is specifically recognised as a viable and accepted reason for changing housing targets in the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government Draft Planning Practise Guidance.
He also asked the Council to rule out the creation of large-scale new village sites, with the exception of the brownfield Camp Hill site and added that National Park status or Island Park status may be the only way to deliver a housing plan that works for Islanders.