COUNCIL officers were challenged over the need to build more houses on open space in a Sheffield suburb – when there are thousands of empty homes.
Bridget Ingle, a community activist in Wincobank, is among residents opposing new homes on green space close to where they believe are remains of the former Roman ridge fortifications.
Residents have already held a protest walk around the site, before Ms Ingle questioned the need to build new homes when there are thousands of empty homes.
In a question to Sheffield Council’s north east community assembly, she said: “The argument for overriding designation of the proposed Sandstone Road housing development site as green space is the alleged shortage in housing land supply.
“I propose the statistical method for calculating the housing figures is fundamentally flawed.
“Figures for the amount of extra housing that will be needed over the next five years closely mirror the number of vacant dwellings in the city – 6,765 new dwellings required versus 6,409 vacant dwellings according to 2010 figures.
“At 2.7 per cent of the total housing stock, the vacant dwelling figures are judged below the national average and statistically insignificant.
“On the other hand, the 6,765 new dwellings needed is always presented as an absolute figure and not as a percentage.
“This creates the impression the shortage of housing land is a far bigger problem than the number of vacant properties. In reality, the problems are equal.
“It is nonsensical, misleading, unscientific and unethical to present the data in different ways to justify policy decisions and strategies, and this is what is happening in this situation.”
Sheffield Council planning officers replied: “Sheffield’s annual house building target was set regionally. The target is to deliver 34,550 new homes over the period 2004 to 2026, an average of about 1,570 per year.
“Even if all 6,409 vacant dwellings in Sheffield could be brought back into use, there would still be a significant need for new homes, especially as demand for new homes continues to rise.
“Furthermore, it would be unrealistic to expect vacant homes to be eliminated completely; particularly as many of the empty properties are privately owned and there will always be a small percentage of vacant properties due, for example, to people moving house or having to wait for probate following the death of an occupier.
“Although there are plenty of suitable brownfield sites in Sheffield, many are not currently achievable because they are not economically viable.”