The opinion poll firm Survation have carried out a poll on behalf of ITN for the Meopham North Ward byelection in Gravesham tomorrow. They conducted a survey of 302 voters (8.6% of the total electorate), over the period of 4th-6th October.
The Voting Intention results are : John Cubitt (Conservative) 52%, Geoffrey Clark (UKIP) 26%, Andrew Mylett (Labour) 20%, David Gibson (Liberal Democrats) 2%.
The point of the exercise is supposed to be to measure the public's response to "the Government's Green Belt housing proposals." But the Green Belt Housing Plan in question comes from the Labour-run Council and is within the existing arrangements.
The Government's proposed planning reforms do not reduce the level of protection for the Green Belt. As the DCLG have stressed:
“Strong protections remain in place in the draft Framework to protect the Green Belt, countryside and other green spaces valued by communities from unacceptable development. The Government is removing the pressure on councils to build on the Green Belt by scrapping regional strategies which imposed top down targets on local areas.”
If you look at the council's proposals (which propose changing the green belt boundaries but not reducing the amount of land covered by the green belt) we can see that:
Currently, the amount of housing that we need to provide is set in the South East Plan. The amount of housing need identified up to 2031 based on the existing South East Plan is 9,300. The proposed abolition of the South East Plan means that we can set our own housing target. We prefer a lower growth option based on either the “historic build rate” (which is the number of homes that have actually been built year on year) or “long term migration” (which is based on the same migration levels continuing) or “zero net migration” (which only takes account of natural change in the existing population and assumes that as many people move away from the borough as come here to live). Our preferred lower growth options show the range of need to be 4,600-5,200 homes in the 20 years to 2031. We are consulting on the method we use to calculate housing need.
So what is the upshot? UKIP are going around telling voters that they are stronger in defending the green belt than the Tories. They hope to get a good show from those residents of Meopham North Ward who believe the nonsense on this subject in the Daily Telegraph. Contrary to the assertions of Survation and ITN this is not likely to have much impact on the General Election as by then the accusations of the National Trust/CPRE which the Telegraph have so uncritically peddled will have been shown to be false.