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The 2021 Census and East Devon: how reliable is it in determining future housing numbers?

  • by JW

“Here in the Sid Valley, ‘demand’ for housing has always been a difficult thing to determine.”


“The first results of the census are in, highlighting a growing, ageing population” – with a tool from the Telegraph showing how any particular area’s population has changed:

Census 2021: Five insights into how we live now and search how your area compares

With lots of tools here from the Office for National Statistics:

How the population changed in East Devon, Census 2021 – ONS

Local news highlighted the large increase for this part of the world:

Census 2021: East Devon district population grows by more than 13% in ten years | Local News | News | Sidmouth Nub News

There has been a lot of ensuing comment – including on the VGS social media pages, with this from regular contributor Paul Foster:

Don’t forget the census took place in the middle of Covid and there were many second homers who left the Big City for the duration, There are areas of London which show negative growth, cos they all beggared off out of it!

(20+) Facebook

It was indeed the case that East Devon was a magnet during lockdown for those wanting to work from home:

Working from home: a Sidmouth perspective – Vision Group for Sidmouth

And across the West Country, the second home ownership has exploded over the last two years:

Renting in Devon: holiday lets vs rural communities – Vision Group for Sidmouth

AirBnb and homelessness in the South-West – Vision Group for Sidmouth

So, the reliability of the Census should perhaps be questioned.

The same concerns were being mooted this time last year, “as these determine how many new homes are planned for”:

But the Office for National Statistics’ own population growth figures have just been questioned.

How accurate are population projections for East Devon? – Vision Group for Sidmouth

The key point there is that population forecasts determine how much housing should be built – a point noted by several posts this week by East Devon Watch – and in the comments that follow:

Census 2021 data confirms East Devon Tories’  “Build, build, build” policy produced the fastest population growth in Devon | East Devon Watch

What does population growth mean in terms of growth in households and houses? | East Devon Watch

Taking a look at the implications of the census data | East Devon Watch

To quote from the VGS news piece from this time last year:

Here in the Sid Valley, ‘demand’ for housing has always been a difficult thing to determine:

Futures Forum: Allocating housing numbers in East Devon (2013)

Futures Forum: Housing crisis in Sidmouth – what housing crisis? … “Evidence for a housing shortage is hard to come by.” (2014)

With circular logic over ‘housing need’ and ’employment need’ feeding the current East Devon Local Plan:

Futures Forum: Housing numbers in East Devon … “The region, which is earmarked for 11,000 new homes…”

Futures Forum: Over-estimating the ‘need’ for housing and employment land in East Devon (2017)

It’s certainly generally been house builders who have pushed the ‘demand’:

Futures Forum: Persimmon, Sidmouth and “promoting well-designed housing that is sustainable and provides much-needed new housing…” (2009)

Finally, it’s all about how you calculate ‘housing need’, as covered on these pages recently:

The housing supply needed for East Devon – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Calculating Devon’s housing need by algorithm – Vision Group for Sidmouth (2020)

See the comment submitted for the draft Local Plan: