AS Herefordshire Council launches its latest core strategy consultation, new projections put the county’s population at well over 200,000 within the next 20 years.

Figures prepared for the latest Understanding Herefordshire report  show the county’s present population ( from mid 2012) at 184,900 and having grown entirely due to migration by 6% - or 10,000 people - since 2001, compared to 8% nationally.

Demographic projections suggest that, if recent trends were to continue, the population  of the county would reach 205,400 by 2031 – 11% higher than in

New homes are a key element of the council’s core strategy.

Those initial statistical indications  suggest that the current intention to build 16,500 new homes between 2011 and 2031 would “more than satisfy” this level of  population growth.

However, the report accepts that “further work” is needed – and planned – to ascertain the extent of labour supply to support “realistic” economic growth.

The figures confirm the county as having an older age structure than England & Wales as a whole, with 22% of the population aged 65 or over (40,800)  compared to 17% nationally. This includes 5,500 residents aged 85 and over.

There is a similar proportion of under 16s (17%) than nationally (19%).

Despite rising numbers of births during the last decade, the number of  children living in the county fell by 7% between 2001 and 2012 to 31,500.

However, the number of under 5s has been rising since 2006.

An overall net in-migration of  under 18s and their families each year  - both from elsewhere in the UK and overseas to three year rolling averages of 200- 300 a year - has not slowed a consistent fall in the number of under 20s in the county.

This was because of the high numbers of births seen in the 1980s and early 1990s  -  children who were becoming adults during the 2000s.

There weren’t enough births and migrant  children during the 2000s to compensate for these children moving out of the age group, so the total number fell.

The 2011  census confirmed that increased immigration in the latter part of the  last decade slowed the rate of this fall.

Herefordshire also has a lower proportion of younger working age adults - from 16 to early 40s - compared with England & Wales as a whole, but a higher proportion of older working age adults from the mid-40s to 64.

Against this background, Herefordshire Council has launched a final round of consultation on its long overdue core strategy defining its plans for the future of the county to 2031 and including proposals for sustainable housing and economic growth, identifying where different types of development will go.

Once approved, it will replace the existing Unitary Development Plan.

Neighbourhood plans, currently being prepared by parish and town councils, are being prepared in line with the policies in the Core Strategy.

Following the decision to proceed at council in July 2013, the outstanding work on the core strategy has now been carried out on the preparation of a Nutrient Management Plan, a Hereford Transport Strategy Phasing Study and an updated Viability Assessment. 

The council says all the technical information is now available to allow the plan to be submitted for independent assessment by a planning inspector. 

The publication of the plan follows on from other major events in the future direction of the county including the opening of the Old Market retail site and the completion of the public inquiry into the Hereford link road - both of which are key projects in the council’s growth and economic regeneration agenda along with the first leg of the proposed Hereford relief road between the A49 (Ross Road) and the A465 (Belmont/Abergavenny Road).

This is the final round of consultation before the formal examination of the strategy.

A summary of all representations received will be provided to an  inspector who  then invite a range of organisations and individuals who have made representations to take part in a series of round table discussions. 

At this stage it is anticipated that the examination will take place in the autumn.