COVENTRY’S “fake population growth” has been exposed by figures revealing a fall in child births, children entering schools and ‘traditional families’.
The evidence-based claim comes from Warwickshire councillor Keith Kondakor.
He has uncovered key data to challenge plans to build homes on Green belt land, including on sites over the city border to accommodate population ‘overspill’.
The council’s Labour leaders want to grow the city by nearly a third to around 420,000 people over two decades, and make Coventry a “top ten city.”
The council’s Local Plan to achieve these ambitions – which includes releasing Green belt – is set to be rubberstamped by the ruling Labour cabinet on November 28 and by the Labour-dominated full council on December 5, after a planning inspector gave the green light.
The council has partly used official Office For National Statistics (ONS) estimates for its population growth assumptions, based on previous trends.
But Green Coun Kondakor has obtained Coventry City Council’s own figures which reveal a FALL in schools intake, alongside a decline in the birth rate.
Coun Kondakor, in an internet article entitled ‘Coventry’s fake population growth’ writes: “It is shocking that almost everyone in Coventry and Warwickshire is believing the story of massive population growth in Coventry.
“It is a bit like the emperor’s new clothes. While it is clear that the population is growing and changing, there does not seem to be evidence that new populations are growing exponentially.
“There is a clear lack of extra new births in the city which were expected.
“What is more, the latest school applications data shows that the number of children in reception year is falling sharply.
“The city council has put so much effort into selling the growth story that nothing is coming out about the decline in traditional families.”
He points to a report to the city council scrutiny panel in January last year, which showed the council education department was expecting the admission to reception classes to drop in 2019.
A primary school admissions booklet for September 2017 shows around 400 fewer reception year pupils this year.
The latest data for births – the maternity rate for Coventry and Warwickshire – shows they fell by 800 in one year to 9,900 in June this year.
Coun Kondakor adds: “Not only has the birth rate dropped but families are moving from Coventry to Warwickshire, putting pressure on primary schools in areas like the north and east of Nuneaton. This year almost every class in every primary school here is full.”
Statistics on the council’s own website from last year reveal around 10,000 unused school places, including about 670 unused in reception year.
Coun Kondakor concludes: “We urgently need an honest reassessment of the population size and demographics in Coventry.
“We are looking at the birth rate being around 20 per cent less than expected in the Local Plan.
“There is likely to be a serious error also in the 20 to 40-year-old population which was expected to give rise to over 5,400 births this year. From the data that has been published in 2017 it looks like in 2017 Coventry mothers will have around 4,300 births.”
Amid a student population boom, opposition Conservative councillors are calling on Labour councillors not to implement the Local Plan until a review next year of the types of homes that will be needed.
They and Green belt protesters in places earmarked for new housing estates including Keresley and Eastern Green, and over the border at King’s Hill near Finham, have long questioned the population assumptions.
A council spokesperson said: “We are aware of Mr Kondakor’s comments and his interest in the city’s new Local Plan.
“The general thread of Mr Kondakor’s comments was presented to the council’s Local Plan examinations at numerous points over the last year.
“As such, they have been fully examined and considered within a public arena and by an independent Inspector. This is explained within the Inspector’s report.
“We recognise that population projections are a highly technical set of data and be affected by many different short-term factors before they reach the long-term projection.
“The new Local Plan also includes opportunities to review the Plan should such projections prove to be wrong over a prolonged period of time.
“This could include them being too low as well as too high.
“Notwithstanding, we remain confident that the projections are based on robust information provided by the Office for National Statistics on behalf of central government.”
THE INSPECTOR’S REPORT SAYS
The planning inspector’s final report for Coventry’s Local Plan tackles claims that council and Office For National Statistics (ONS) could be wrong on Coventry’s future population, notably migration into Coventry.
It states: “It was suggested that the result of the EU Referendum and plans for Brexit will affect international migration to the UK and result in a reduced level of housing to be required over the Plan period. Also, that the ONS methodology for measuring migration is unreliable.
“However, the potential impact of Brexit on migration and future population projections is as yet unknown. National planning policy16 is clear that each local planning authority should ensure that the Local Plan is based on adequate, up-to-date and relevant evidence about the economic, social and environmental characteristics and prospects of the area and that they should take full account of relevant market and economic signals.
“The Plan’s housing requirement has been identified on the basis of the most up-to-date evidence and has been informed by the latest available information in line with planning policy guidance17.
“It has been suggested that the level of housing need in Coventry has been over-estimated on account of inaccuracies in recording the number of students arriving and leaving the City.
“… The evidence18 suggests that student numbers have been growing in Coventry with a notable increase in foreign students over the last 10 years.
“However, whilst some of the flow of international migrants to the city has been to study, the evidence shows that this does not have a particular impact on overall flows and that numbers of economic migrants are likely to be higher.
“Whilst there is a strong level of international migration of young persons, the highest inflows are of those aged 20-24 rather than 18-19 year olds.
“There is significant internal out migration from Coventry of those aged between 20-35 but particularly those aged 20-22. This suggests that some students who come to Coventry to study from abroad then move to other parts of the UK.”