The 2021 Census figures, just published, prove that Eastbourne housing targets are “absurd”, according to the Conservative leader on the borough council.

This latest data shows that, over the 10 years since the previous census, the town’s population increased by just 2.3%, from 99,412 to 101,700. “This is a fraction of the projected increase (7.7% over 10 years) used to create current housing targets (an 11% increase over 10 years)”, says Councillor Robert Smart (Con. Meads).

Cllr Smart has already written to the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to highlight Eastbourne’s case. In his correspondence, Cllr Smart criticises the town’s Lib-Dem administration for “the significant delay in presenting a Local Plan for discussion with the Planning Inspectorate” for contributing to the current difficulties. He says that it is long overdue to present a plan which needs to focus on the wider aspirations for the borough.

“For the past several years, without an agreed Local Plan, planning applications have been made under the completely false premiss that Eastbourne does not have a five-year land supply”, insists Cllr Smart in his letter to the Rt. Hon Greg Clark MP.

“Planning officers, understandably, and the Planning Inspectorate have mistakenly treated this as a material consideration to favour developments”, he adds. “The whole planning scenario would be transformed if realistic targets were in place. Perversely, the 2014-based population projections currently in use carry the following caveat from the ONS: they ‘do not take account of the ability of an area to accommodate any extra accommodation’.”

Wanting to ensure that this issue was among the first to cross the new Cabinet Minister’s desk, Cllr Smart told him that, in the case of Eastbourne, the physical constraints of the sea, South Downs National Park, the Pevensey flood plain, and the boundary with Wealden are not taken into consideration in the population projections.