EERA 4 Scenarios


Scenario One – Roll forward of existing Plan

This scenario is broadly based on the views of local councils in the region, which the Assembly sought via the county and unitary councils. Given the already ambitious nature of the current Plan most indicated that a “roll forward” of the current Plan rates for another ten years was the highest level of development that they could support as being deliverable. This would need Government support for new infrastructure. Some felt that even this might not be deliverable, although a few indicated some possibility of further growth.

Scenario 1 is therefore a ‘bottom-up’ scenario that rolls forward both the amount and distribution of growth in line with the current Plan. This is 26,000 homes per year (521,000 overall) and 25,400 jobs per year (508,000 overall). The only exceptions to this are where the county councils provided either a different distribution within their area, or an assessment that councils could not provide at this roll forward rate.

It means that the distribution of that growth is concentrated at the main towns and cities in the region identified as ‘key centres for development and change’ in the current Plan.

This approach does not raise any significant conflicts with local development plans being progressed in the region, some of which have already assumed a roll forward of the rate.

Scenario Two – National housing advice and regional new settlements

Both this and the next scenario are based on broadly the same amount of development, although distributed in different ways. As set out above, the Assembly considers only the lower end of the Government’s housing advice needs to be tested. Scenarios 2 and 3 test about 30,000 homes per year (rates that have been achieved in the region before, albeit in the late 1980s at the height of the property boom). These require about 28,000 new jobs annually. It implies about 80,000 more homes than a roll forward.

For scenario 2 the approach taken is to consider which parts of the region have the capacity to accommodate significantly more growth than in scenario 1. The Assembly commissioned a ‘Regional Scale Settlement Study’ to identify potential locations for new or expanded towns that could provide at least 20,000 new homes each within the next few decades. The independent consultants concluded, along with several caveats, that consideration be given to:

• large scale growth at Cambridge, Norwich and Chelmsford;

• expansion in Ipswich, Colchester and Bury St Edmunds; and

• new settlements within Huntingdon/Alconbury, Central Bedfordshire (the A5120/Midland Mainline Corridor, the East Bedfordshire Strategic Corridor, Marston Vale), the Braintree area, and south of the A120/ west of Braintree.

As the growth rates at Cambridge and Norwich urban areas are at rates rarely achieved by any similar location in the country, only Chelmsford is seen as having the potential to grow beyond scenario 1 figures. Therefore, its development rates are increased to be on a par with those for Cambridge and Norwich.

The rest of the gap is met through three medium-sized new settlements (ultimately up to 20,000 homes) – located in Central Bedfordshire, south of the A120 and in Huntingdonshire – and smaller increases in Peterborough, Suffolk and Essex. The A120 settlement is included in Uttlesford District, although (in line with the consultants’ advice) it could alternatively be located in Braintree District.

Scenario Three – National housing advice and regional economic forecasts

Scenario 3 differs in that the influential factor is not growth capacity but the economic potential to create more jobs. Extra growth over scenario 1 is distributed to those council areas where there is forecast to be a demand for additional workers.

The economic forecasts also show that some parts of the region might have longer-term economic stagnation or decline – assuming that nothing is done to avoid it. This is obviously not the regional aim, and EEDA, local councils and others will continue to tackle regeneration issues and stimulate economic growth. The housing growth rates for those areas are not therefore reduced from the scenario 1 ’rolled forward’ levels. The combination of higher growth in economically buoyant areas, and maintaining growth in less successful areas provides a regional housing total that meets the Government’s range for testing. Obviously, it requires measures to regenerate and stimulate the economy within the region (as do all the scenarios in one form or other).

The additional growth in scenario 3 is spread over more districts, but with particular concentrations in the districts within Hertfordshire, south Essex and Cambridgeshire

Scenario Four – National household projections

This scenario takes both its scale and distribution of growth from the Government projections of new households. The Government looks at both long-term demographic trends (such as people living longer) and movement of people into and out of different areas. The amount of dwellings required by this scenario is greater than the other three, at about 33,700 new dwellings a year. The figures imply a further 150,000 homes over a roll forward of the Plan, and a further increase in the need to generate additional jobs.

Although recognising the official nature of this information, the Assembly is concerned that the household projections in the region are significantly influenced by migration assumptions, of which there is a debate about future trends. They also reflect past policy decisions. However, it also recognises that these figures were heavily used by the independent panels that have tested regional plans in the past, and we need to understand the implications for this region.

In light of the purely trend-based nature of these figures, the Assembly has not varied the distribution of growth from the projections. This causes some anomalies with the current Plan where major developments might be planned but not yet completed and hence not shown within the projected figures.

This scenario focuses the majority of additional growth in Hertfordshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.

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