There are many misconceptions about housing, development and planning – at times it can seem designed to confuse.
To a large extent construction of homes is out of the hands of our councils. We can set out places where we would like to see houses built in our Local Plans. And our planning departments can give permission for planning applications and set conditions around such matters as affordable housing and infrastructure but we no longer build houses of our own.
Our council housing stocks were transferred to housing associations some years ago. We cannot force anyone to build new homes – even if a site gets planning permission it may lay dormant for a number of reasons – from the cost of construction to changing circumstances of developers or landowners.
Opening Doors aims to regain the initiative and encourage greater housebuilding through a variety of means in a fair way for homebuyers and renters, developers, landowners and the community.
Read more below about Opening Doors and how we aim to help more people find a home of their own.
We are working with private sector developers, housing associations, landowners and other partners to encourage their involvement in the programme and explore potential sites for housing development.
New homes are essential for the future sustainability, growth and prosperity of our communities.
According to the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership, the county’s economy is set for growth across a number of sectors. Our population is due to expand, with people coming into the area to work, and an increasing number of people in the 65+ age group – many who will remain in under-occupied homes.
Furthermore, a shortage of homes and low wages has resulted in an ‘affordability gap’. In our areas the house prices to earnings ratio is much higher than the national average. This is resulting in younger people moving away from the area or employers being unable to recruit skilled or essential workers for their business and the local economy.
Lack of housing is a major barrier to economic growth and retaining/attracting a young workforce.
Mixed towns and villages – including young families, older people and those of working age – make for more vibrant and sustainable communities in the long run; bring all kinds of benefits from stronger economies to greater wellbeing and social cohesion.
The target is to build a total of 20,000 homes by 2033 in the North Dorset, West Dorset and Weymouth & Portland areas. This works out at 1,176 per year over 17 years from 2016 to 2033. The breakdown is 775 per year for West Dorset/Weymouth & Portland and 285-330 per year for North Dorset,
In 2016-17 a total of 914 homes were built (772 in West Dorset/Weymouth & Portland, and 142 in North Dorset). An average of 737 homes have been built annually over the past five years. This number needs to be increased by more than 40% in future.
Opening Doors goes beyond simple bricks and mortar.
It is about building communities – strong, vibrant, sustainable and balanced communities. These will grow and prosper with the right mix of housing for families, residents and workers placed in the right locations to balance the need for housing with protecting Dorset’s environment.
There is a great demand for housing of all kinds – whether it is new, open market, affordable, private rented, shared ownership, housing association supplied or through Community Land Trusts.
For social housing, there are currently 902 people on the North Dorset‘s Housing Register, 1709 people on West Dorset’s Housing Register and 1662 on Weymouth & Portland’s Housing Register.
Our population is set to increase, while the proportion of people of working age is set to fall unless we take action to make more homes available. A shortage of supply is also making it difficult to attract and keep key workers in the area.
Providing new, decent and more affordable homes will also reduce the need for young people to move away, which in turn will help the local economy and the essential infrastructure that serves the public.
No. We need a mixed tenure of homes to appeal to the different sectors that live in the area and to also attract developers.
However, a home building programme will help us meet our targets on affordable housing.
A mix of housing of all kinds, including affordable, is important for creating thriving communities which are balanced and sustainable. A good range of housing for families, older people, workers and single people will help communities grow.
There are sites allocated for housing in the Local Plans and we will very much be looking at these to encourage plans to come forward.
We are targeting the larger urban areas first and brownfield sites that have the potential for housing.
We are also actively looking at sites that already have planning permission in place for housing but have not yet been developed.
See the sites in our local plan here.
Local authorities play an important role in housing as we hold the housing register of people in the area requesting social housing and provide daily advice to people in housing need.
We also oversee the housing strategy which plots out the long term aims and vision for meeting housing need in the area.
As the local planning authority we play a key role in determining the sites and policies that will help meet the national building targets that are set by government.
We are the main local player that can bring together developers, housing providers and residents.
It is also within our powers to buy and acquire land, which we can prioritise for housing. We also have the ability to apply for certain grants to allow developments to proceed, such as the Housing Infrastructure Fund.
We also have £2m worth of grants to support Community Land Trusts (CLTs).
We are keen to talk with developers, housebuilders, landowners, agents, business and organisations whatever their size or location to find out more about how they can get involved or for their views on any obstacles to development from their perspective.
We have been awarded Housing Business Ready status by the Housing Finance Institute (HFI). This means that we have the commitment, leadership and expertise to allow greater levels of housebuilding, whatever the changes in government policies and the housing market over the coming years.
There may also be potential for joint ventures and/or a council led housing development company.
As mentioned above, our planning policies are not designed to put obstacles in the way. We work with applicants or agents as much as we can to help them through the planning process.
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We are launching a new home ownership register, where people can register their interest in buying or renting a new home.