Gateshead Council bosses lambast Government-set housing targets after shortfall

-Credit: (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

The causes of a shortfall in new housing in Gateshead have been revealed as council chiefs lambast central Government targets.

The local authority has fallen just short on the Government’s ‘Housing Delivery Test’. Figures from the council show that 93% of new housing needed in Gateshead is being delivered, two per cent less than the centrally mandated Government target of 95%.

Council documents state the major causes, among others, hampering housing targets include the high number of demolitions, high development costs and protracted financial arrangements with developers. Between 2015/16 and 2018/19, there were 401 demolitions recorded.

Although the number of demolitions has fallen significantly since 2018/2019, council homes in Felling, Bensham and the town centre are currently being emptied and scheduled to be torn down. The Government’s 95% target came under attack by Gateshead Council chiefs on Tuesday, with one cabinet member dubbing it a “blunt instrument” that does not take into account local circumstances.

Cabinet member for children and young people, Coun Gary Haley said: “It strikes me whilst there are no sanctions on this, the information does become public when it is published. It therefore exposes this council and every other council to comparisons in the media about who is over-performing and who is under-performing.

“It is a blunt instrument setting a 95% threshold with no sensitivity at all to allow councils to contextualise the situation within their borough. Gateshead is an urban metropolitan borough, with a lot of housing ... which was high-rise high-density."

Coun Haley continued: “Demolitions happen quickly, building new estates which are low rise on larger areas of land takes several years to complete over varying phases, so it is not really a fair test, and I just want to make that point clear.”

The leader of Gateshead Council, Coun Martin Gannon, called on the central Government to invest in the provision of social housing to meet the needs of residents.

Coun Gannon said: “When I first became a councillor in 1984 Gateshead had 40,000 local authority homes, we now have about 19,000 and there is a desperate need out there for social housing because of the circumstances of the nature of our population."

Coun Gannon continued: “Political parties tend to set targets, ‘we’ll build 300,000 homes’, and they never happen, they have repeatedly never happened. The solution is they need to invest in social homes.”