Andy Street and 5 West Midlands MPs challenge ONS figures for Coventry population

Mayor of West Midlands and 5 local MPs challenge ONS population estimates for Coventry
CPRE calls on Coventry to suspend damaging planning decisions.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, 5 local MPs (Zarah Sultana (L), Tai Owatemi,(L) Craig Tracey (C), Jeremy Wright (C), and Mark Pawsey (C)’, and CPRE Warwickshire have sent a letter of complaint to the UK Statistics Authority, which regulates official stats in the UK and supervises ONS.

They are challenging the population estimates and projections for Coventry and asking the UKSA to carry out an independent review. They say that bad planning decisions are being made on the back of bad data. They do not believe that there is any evidence, that Coventry population is growing twice as fast as Birmingham, three times as fast as Solihull, or four times as fast as Warwick – as the ONS mid year estimates and projections claim,

Sir Andrew Watson chair of CPRE Warwickshire, said that planning decisions about the green belt in and around Coventry, should be deferred until the UKSA can respond to overwhelming evidence, endorsed by 4 international demographic experts, that exceptional population growth in Coventry is not happening. That evidence is summarised in the letter. He said, “It would be tragic if the historic and beautiful forest of arden landscape, one of Warwickshire’s treasures, was sacrificed for homes that are not needed in this place at this time.

As an example, he cites the fact that births in Coventry have been far below the levels predicted by ONS, by more than 1000/yr – the population is just not growing in the way that they projected. Other data, such as the numbers of voters, school admissions , amount of gas and electricity used, pensions claimed, jobs growth, house prices, house completions & starts, all show that population growth in Coventry is just average for the region – that it is not launching into some rocket propelled expansion.

On Thursday 26 November, Coventry Council Planning Committee, is going to consider an application for 2500 homes at Eastern Green, in the so called Meriden Gap between Coventry and Birmingham. Over many years multiple planning inspectors have emphasised the importance of keeping this rural green landscape -o prevent Coventry from merging into Birmingham and to protect the separate identities of the two cities. CPRE feels that this land was unnecessarily removed from Green Belt by the latest Coventry Local Plan and that Coventry Council should review its local plan, in the light of new evidence, and return it to green belt.

Sir Andrew said that Coventry needs to look at all the evidence, and not be blinded by blind faith in the Office of National Statistics. They can and do make mistakes. In 2017, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee said “Many of the available measures [of migration] are wholly inadequate. ….. the International Passenger Survey …..cannot bear the burden placed upon it and cannot be relied upon to provide accurate estimates of net migration.” Student migration is a “significant challenge”2. CPRE points out that miscounting international students – of whom there are 16,000 in the city – can account for a very large part of the error in the numbers. ONS counts them in, but fails to count them out when they go home.

CPRE believe that inaccurate population projections and estimates are likely a national problem and would welcome contact from others who feel that the numbers in their area are inflated and unwarranted housing growth is being forced upon them .