As Frome declares a housing crisis, analysis of data from the Census, Office for National Statistics and Mendip Local Plan have painted a “concerning picture” for the Somerset town, according to an expert from planning, design, socio economics and development consultancy Marrons.
Craig Pettit, planning director at Marrons in the South West, said: “It was only a few months ago that a planning inspector raised concerns about an anticipated shortfall in housing delivery in Frome’s former district, Mendip. As Frome Town Council declares a housing crisis, it appears these fears have now materialised in a challenging reality.
“While the declaration is focused on the affordability of homes, it is important to remember the strong correlation with the delivery of properties. It is not an isolated situation and, as we monitor the national under-supply of homes, we can clearly see the localised effects of demand versus supply and affordability – resulting in soaring prices and excluding individuals from home ownership.
“Our socio economics team has delved into the figures and they paint a concerning picture. Looking specifically at the affordable homes provision in Frome, in the town centre itself there were 427 units of local authority-owned social rented housing as of the 2011 Census. In 2021, 428 were recorded – an increase of one unit in a decade. This stagnation is very telling and particularly alarming.
“According to the latest figures, there were 1,824 households on Mendip Council’s housing register as of 2022 – the highest since changes were made to eligibility for waiting lists in 2014 and representing a staggering 45% increase from the 1,258 households recorded in 2015.
“This compares with a decline in waiting lists in other former neighbouring districts that now make up the Somerset unitary authority – indicating a sign of the housing crisis in Mendip, where Frome is one of the main towns, and making it clear that the demand for housing is outpacing the available resources.
“From a delivery perspective, the Office for National Statistics recorded the delivery of 1,278 affordable homes in Mendip between the financial years 2011-12 and 2021-22. However, the social housing sales and demolitions open data recorded by government reported 384 affordable housing losses over the same period – meaning there were only 894 net additions (89 per annum). These figures underscore the need for a more robust approach to housing provision.
“In terms of the planning policy landscape, the latest Mendip Local Plan stated a need of 145 net affordable homes in Frome and 743 across Mendip each year from 2011 to 2016. However, figures from the ONS and the government shows there were just 496 new affordable homes across the entire district during this period – further reinforcing the housing shortfall.
“Data from the past ten years from the House Price Statistics for Small Areas shows a huge rise in lower quartile house prices in Frome, highlighting how even the ‘cheapest’ homes have increased dramatically in price when compared to other parts of Mendip.
“The declaration of a housing crisis by Frome Town Council serves as a stark reminder that immediate and coordinated efforts are necessary to address this multifaceted challenge. Balancing housing supply, affordability, and planning policy is essential to ensure the housing needs of communities are met effectively.
“It is imperative the government, local authorities, and regional and national stakeholders collaborate to devise plan-making solutions that uplift the housing situation in Frome and beyond.”