2021 Census Update
The Committee were provided with a presentation from the Assistant Director (Planning).
The full presentation can be accessed through the following link:
The Census took place on the 21 March 2021 and it is mandatory to complete. It takes place every 10 years so the previous Census was completed in 2011. We are very fortunate to have some 2021 data already and it is giving us initial findings. The Government will be publishing lots of information and there will be the option for bespoke information to be produced.
• There were 59,597,300 people living in England and Wales on 21 March 2021, over 3.5m more than in 2011 (6.3% increase)
• The region with the highest increase was the East of England. South-East was quite high, with the lowest in Wales
• The East grew by 8.3% or 488,000
• The North-East grew by 1%
• In Gravesham there was a 5.1% increase in population from 101,700 to 106,900 which is a modest increase compared to places like Maidstone. In Gravesham we have more people in the younger age group of 25-39. There has been an increase of 13% in people aged 65 years and over, an increase of 2.5% in people aged 15-64 and an increase of 6.9% in children aged under 15 years. It is good news as people are living longer
• Dartford and Thurrock increased significantly by around 20% and 11.6% whilst others such as Medway saw an increase of 6% and Sevenoaks 4.9%
• There are areas of population falls, generally in more expensive areas with an older population such as New Forest at -0.4% and Gosport -0.9%
• Maidstone has the most households and this has increased. Gravesham is at the bottom in terms of overall number of households 41,700 compared to Maidstone at 71,200. There may still be overcrowding. Dartford has seen the biggest increase in households at 14%, Gravesham 3.2% increase.
The Census informs our understanding of the community and how best to target our services to address local needs and feeds into the Corporate and Local Plans. It enables us to lobby government and partner agencies for better support with bids.
Following the presentation the Assistant Director (Planning) responded to questions as follows:
• What are we doing as a borough council to campaign to make sure our housing targets are representative of the population growth?
Back in 2012 when the Gravesham Local Plan Core Strategy was being produced, the requirement was that you had to evidence what your assessed need level was. We used the latest population projections and set out a target and included that within the submission version of the Core Strategy. At that time migration was static, with flows in and out of the Borough being about even and this meant that our growth was primarily based on natural change. Developers considered that our figure was too low and we had to explain to The Planning Inspectorate why there was so many different figures and we explained that this was due to different migration assumptions (at that time the Office of National Statistics had just released new migration data showing positive migration flows into the Borough). Government decided that local authorities are spending all their time fighting with house builders on what the housing level is and it brought in the standard methodology. Since this came in, Gravesham’s figures have been increasing every year and we have moved from a figure of at least 363 per year to a figure of 733. Part of that is because previous government said it isn’t just about looking at current figures but you have to look at 30 years of under supply and to look to address that
• As a council what action have we taken to try and get ONS or government to understand this is an unrealistic target? What are we doing as a borough to challenge these methodologies?
Regarding targets, if the technical evidence based work such as transport modelling shows we are unable to meet the development level we would try to justify a level of development that is achievable and deliverable. Green Belt is harder because it is a constraint but you have the ability to amend via the Local Plan process. Overall most area population is 5% less than it was expected to be in the previous projection. In Summer 2020, the Government consulted on changing the standard method for assessing local housing need and Gravesham was one of the few areas in Kent that would benefit from that change in approach.
• It will be interesting to see the movement in salaries, as Gravesham is a bit on the low side and also educational attainment is on the low side and we should have a target to keep up with the average.
• In the 2021 Census there was a question about highest level of qualification for adults in the household and so we will be interested to see this information when it is published. There was also a question on income but this was discretionary so we aren’t sure if the information that will be available in due course will be helpful. It was discretionary because they felt if it was mandatory people would refuse to complete the form.
• Phase 3 of the Census will enable you to look at area level where people go and come from. The origin and destination information is very difficult to analyse and present, and hence why it will be one of the last pieces of information to be published.
• Gravesham’s population went up by 5% but the number of households went up less, Simple question – what is a household and why the difference in the increase between population and household?
Unfortunately, this is not a simple question. A “household” can be one person living alone or a group of people, who may be related or not, living at the same address who share facilities. A household can consist of a single family, more than one family or no families in the case of a group of unrelated people. Historically, the number of people in a household has been decreasing over time, but this has not been the case recently. We are assuming that affordability is part of the reason with households being prevented from forming. Care needs can also be a reason as people are also living longer but may have ill health and so move in with family.
• The Community Profile is completed by the Policy Team and there will be a refresh in due course.
Members noted the presentation.