– Lies, misinformation and statistics.          Further observations from Ian Redding

We have some interesting discussions at the Society’s Executive, seeking to look at the bigger picture and to understand how new developments are changing our town and expanding it into surrounding areas, for good or bad.  

Across our towns and parishes, many local residents have expressed dismay about the scale of new housing being built; about how Lower Walmer, Upper Walmer, Mill Hill, Great Mongham, and Sholden are felt to be losing their individuality and merging into one; and how we are bearing an unfair proportion of Dover’s housing development. There has certainly been a lot of building, but how has this affected the size of the local population?

I’ve been looking at the statistics and have analysed these changes over the last 20 years (2001/2011/2021) for each parish/town in the district and the resulting analysis shows some surprises.

  • Deal’s population hasn’t changed in number at all over those 20 years, despite the building that has taken place over that period. This may be down to second homes, holiday rentals, or just people moving out to more affordable areas.
  • Walmer had a big surge between 2001 and 2011, but then reduced a little; but what will the next 10 years bring given the scale of new building that wraps around the southern end of Walmer as it stretches up the hill? You’d hope that these would house more people, but the same affordability issues are at play as in Deal ….. where do our young people and their families go as there is no provision for them?

The biggest changes are, perhaps, the most obvious to us all ….. both on our fringes and extending to neighbouring towns:

  • Sholden’s population more than doubled between 2011 and 2021 and continues to increase year on year: in effect it is becoming “Greater Deal & Walmer” and risks being a parish that is losing its unique identity.
  • But it seems our “priced out” young families have moved to Dover, and to the huge New Towns at Whitfield (continuing to expand now) and at Aylesham.

In my opinion, good planning policy would seek first and foremost to meet local needs, and young people being forced to move from the places in which they were born and brought up, because affordable homes are not being built parish by parish, is clearly not good planning policy.

Nor is it good planning policy if in housing provision, it doesn’t account sufficiently for the other social and industrial trends that affect us like the decline of multi-generational households, marriage breakups, and the general lack of high-quality and well-paid jobs in small towns like ours.

The Government’s Levelling-Up legislation, recently passed, is intended to address some of these issues. Self-evidently, the housing market needs a more suitable framework that includes building new social housing to replace the huge volume lost to 40+ years of Right to Buy. According to Centre for Cities, the leading think tank dedicated to improving the economies of the UK’s largest cities and towns, leaving house building to “market forces” has been a huge disaster, with the supply of homes being 4.3 million units below what was needed nationally.

All of this is based upon seeking to learn the failings of the last 20 years, but what about the next 20 years? Dover District Council has created its Local Plan through to 2043, which is up for statutory Public Inspection this week, on projections of population that rise by more than another 20% to over 140,000.

So where should these be housed? Whitfield? Aylesham? Or on a more balanced programme that meets needs where they are?

19 November 2023

For further information and the latest Population Statistics please look on the following link. Population Stats