Latest government projections suggest that in just over 20 years, there will be 6.3 million extra housholds in the England. This is a rise of nearly 30%, driven by a combination of population increase, higher life expectancy (half the extra households will be 65 and overs), fracturing families and net migration. Summary here.
Impact on the South-West
The South-West will see a rise from 2.11 million households to just over 3 million. That's 1 extra home for every 2.1 houses - picture that in your street/town.
The planning agency for the South-West has planned extra housing up to 2026 - South Somerset's share of that is 19,700 houses, of which Yeovil is identified for 11,400 extra houses.
That will increase the population of Yeovil from the current 40,000-ish to 65,000.
However, the planned totals for 2026 are based on old government projections. These new ones represent a 10% increase on previous estimates. That could be spread evenly around the area ( = 1000 extra houses for Yeovil), or done on a more 'lumpy' basis.
A final version of the 'Regional Spatial Strategy' for the South-West is due at the end of June from the Department of Communities and Local Government. I don't know whether Hazel Blears departure will affect those timings.
Here's the regional projections from 2006-2031, figures in '000. If you want to work out population, the average household size is estimated at roughly 2.2 people per household:
North East: 1,110 to 1,316 19% rise
North West: 2,931 to 3,617 23% rise
Yorkshire & The Humber: 2,181 to 2,932 34% rise
East Midlands: 1,849 to 2,539 37% rise
West Midlands: 2,237 to 2,762 23% rise
East: 2,371 to 3,211 35% rise
London: 3,178 to 4,016 26% rise
South East: 3,447 to 4,425 28% rise
South West: 2,211 to 3,001 36% rise
England: 21,515 to 27,818 29% rise
Implications for the Church of England
1. Unless there is a massive rise in ordination levels, the ratio of clergy:general population will continue to drop.
2. This in turn raises serious questions about the nature of local leadership within the CofE. We need to be planting churches which can function well with lay leadership and less clergy input, and recalibrating the ones we have to work in the same way. That's not about doing the same work with less resources, we need to rethink the work itself.
3. Ecumenical mission partnership moves up the agenda. The parish system is creaking at the seams, and in many places exists more on paper than in reality. If these projections are even half true, many areas will be transformed over the next 20 years. Ancient parish boundaries will bear less and less relationship with reality, and without a serious effort at church planting, the parish system itself will cease to mean anything.
We can be committed to neighbourhood churches without having to run them all ourselves. In nearby Weston-super-Mare, different neighbourhoods in new estates are served by a mixture of churches, not all of them Anglican. Here in Bath and Wells we've just appointed an Ecumenical Mission Enabler (had a good chat earlier this week), and the whole ecumenical agenda itself needs to focus more on collaborative mission.
4. Dioceses will need some kind of church planting strategy for new estates, and to take time to resource local church leaders who are trying to engage with new communities on the ground.
A local picture.
We have a local situation with a 4-parish benefice, 4 village churches, but where more than half the population is in an urban area on the edge of Yeovil, mostly built in the last 20 years. This neighbourhood doesn't have an accessible, local parish church, even though it falls into 3 (rural) parishes. The parish system hasn't kept up with real people and real lives, but whenever you talk, about moving boundaries people mutter darkly about how long it will take and what a faff it will be. Within current structures, with so much new housing planned, that is a picture of the future for more and more people.
If we are committed to the parish system, then we have to find a way to reform it so that it keeps on working.
and finally... presently, nobody is building anything. You can plan all you like, but at the moment neither developers, nor government, can actually afford the houses we need right now, never mind the houses of the future....