HC Deb 29 March 1999 vol 328 cc470-3W
Mr. Sawford

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he intends to publish revised household projections; and if he will make a statement. [79535]

Mr. Prescott

In our policy statement "Planning for the Communities of the Future" published early last year, the Government said that they would put in place new policies in respect of planning for housing which would include a new flexible approach to regional planning involving decentralisation to regional stakeholders; a national 60 per cent. target for the re-use of previously developed land; the creation of a National Land Use Database; and that we would be setting up a task force to advise us on how to make the best use of recycled land.

Our emphasis is on urban renaissance—making our towns and cities places where people want to live—and this theme will be developed in an Urban White Paper which the Government propose to publish later this year.

The Government have implemented all of these initiatives and more. We issued the consultation draft of planning policy guidance note 11 (PPG11) "Regional Planning" last month, together with new guidance on the preparation of development plans (PPG12). Planning policy guidance note 3 "Housing" (PPG3) was published for consultation last week. It introduces a new sequential approach to the release of housing land which will require local planning authorities to consider the re-use of existing property and of previously developed land before releasing greenfield land for housing development. The National Land Use Database is now being compiled and I expect to publish first results shortly.

Together, these represent the Government's new policy direction to planning for housing and mark a clear departure from what has become known as the "predict and provide" approach favoured by the previous Government. That policy is dead.

It has been the practice to publish periodically projections of household growth in England. In keeping with that, the Government Statistical Service (GSS) will be publishing a report later this year setting out the household projections for the period 1996 to 2021 together with a full description of the methodology by which those projections are derived.

The household projections are one input to the process of regional planning, a new round of which is currently in progress. I have therefore decided to make available the main projections for England and the English regions in advance of publication of the full GSS document.

The number of households in England is projected to have grown from 20.2 million in 1996 to about 24.0 million in 2021, an increase of 3.8 million or about 150,000 households per year. It is a smaller increase to that previously projected for the period 1991 to 2016 which was 4.4 million or around 175,000 households a year.

The most important explanation for the reduction in the projected rate of household formation is the changes contained in the most recent marital status projections published by the Government Actuary's Department in January. Recent evidence has shown that cohabitation is increasing at a faster rate than expected, leading to a greater increase in the number of couple households by 2016 than assumed in the previous projections. Changes in the marital status assumption have also led to downward revisions in the proportions of older women who are widows or divorcees.

The projections are not forecasts, estimates or predictions. They are based entirely on what might be expected to occur if previous trends continue and are heavily dependant on the assumptions involved. Such trends can and do change as a result, for example, of demographic or economic factors, as the new cohabiting assumptions show.

I therefore agreed with the Select Committee to publish information about how sensitive the projected total number of households at 2021 might be to changes in underlying assumptions. This information is as follows

Household projections: Government Office Regions 1
1996 millions 2021 millions 1996–2021 percentage change 1991–2016 percentage change 2
North East 1.1 1.2 8 16
Yorkshire and the Humber 2.1 2.4 14 19
East Midlands 1.7 2.0 20 26
East of England 2.2 2.7 25 29
Greater London 3.0 3.6 21 22
South East 3.2 4.1 26 27
South West 2.0 2.5 25 29
West Midlands 2.1 2.4 13 18
North West and Merseyside 2.8 3.1 11 18
England 20.2 24.0 19 23
1 All figures rounded
2 Source: Projections of Households in England to 2016, ISBN 0–11–753055–7

There are insufficient data available to undertake a sensitivity analysis on the regional projections. However, a significant factor in determining regional household growth is migration from and to other regions and there are some indications that this may be particularly sensitive to economic factors. In this respect, the Government do not believe that past migration trends are necessarily representative of future patterns of regional growth.

Regional projections are published as one input to the process of regional planning. As our consultation draft of PPG11 "Regional Planning" indicates, the household projections should be taken into account in assessing a region's housing needs. Other factors should equally be taken into account so that regional planning bodies should, against the background of need and capacity, take a realistic and responsible approach to planning future housing provision.

Change in household formation 1996–2021 in response to changes in key parameters
Change in household formation (000)
Cohabiting +20% (never married) -180
+10% (previously married)
-20% (never married) +180
-10% (previously married)
Mortality1 +1 year for men, 0.6 years for women +160
-0.8 years for men, -0.7 years for women -180
Marriage +15% (never married), 10% (others) -100
-15% (never married), -10% (others) +110

in tabular form at the end of this statement but, for example, a 1 per cent. change in real interest rates may affect the national projection by over 200,000 households in either direction.

The conclusion of the analysis is that the projected growth of 3.8 million in the number of households in England between 1996 and 2021 is not a precise figure. It reflects one of the potential outcomes but it could be subject to some variability.

In keeping with previous published projections, I am today also announcing household projections for each of the Government Office regions. Again, the Government do not regard the projections as forecasts or predictions of the number of households likely to form. If the new regional projections are compared on a like-for-like basis with those published previously, they indicate a reduced rate of household formation in all regions except the South East where the rate of growth is stable. The projections are as follows:

The household projections I am publishing today relate to England as a whole and English regions. I recognise that similar information at sub regional level could be useful as background for the regional planning process and the preparation of Regional Planning Guidance and my Department will therefore be writing to the regional planning bodies to make relevant information available in a form consistent with that published as part of the last set of household projections in 1995. The statistics are inherently less reliable at this level of detail and I expect the information to be used only to inform debate as an extrapolation of past trends and not to be used to 'predict and provide'. Rather, I look to regional planning bodies to use their new flexibilites to take account of all relevant factors, against the background of need and capacity, in considering the distribution of growth within a region.

Change in household formation 1996–2021 in response to changes in key parameters
Change in household formation (000)
Fertility +0.2 in the mean number of children per woman +40
-0.2 in the mean number of children per woman -60
Net Inward Migration +40 thousand per annum +450
-40 thousand per annum -410
Divorce +10% (first marriage) +60
-10% (first marriage) -60
Interest Rates (real) +1% -230
-1% +260
GDP (real per head) +0.25% +190
-0.25% -150
Unemployment (%) +1% -20
-1% +30
1 Increased expectation of life at birth between 1996 and 2021 over the principal projection.


The variations shown are consistent with those exemplified by the Government Actuary's Department in their respective publications on the underlying national population projections and marital status projections. The changes in household formation are not additive.

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