Cornish MPs Urge Government to Cancel Failed Housing Strategy

Posted on: 20th May 2011

Following the announcement that Government plans to build over 70,000 new houses in Cornwall in the next 20 years have been put on hold, Cornwall’s MPs are urging the Government to scrap their targets and instead focus on the delivery of affordable homes. The Government’s proposals are contained in the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) for the South West which is the development plan for the region for the next 20 years. It sets out how many homes the Government believes should be built in Cornwall by 2026. The RSS, which requires a signature from the Secretary of State, was already delayed after more than 35,000 representations were made, the largest ever for such a consultation. However, the most recent delay was announced after a High Court ruling was made regarding the RSS for the East of England, which judges said failed to meet EU rules.

The five Liberal Democrat Cornish MPs have been campaigning against the RSS urging the Government to abandon their top down plans to force high numbers of unaffordable new properties on Cornwall and adopt instead a locally led strategy to concentrate on providing homes for those local people in the greatest need. They argue that for the last 40 years, Cornwall has been one of the fastest growing places in the UK (exceeded only by Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire). In that time, Cornwall’s housing stock has more than doubled.

In spite of this, Cornwall’s housing problems have got worse. The Cornish MPs have urged the Government to give Cornwall greater freedom to set its own housing strategy rather than to have house building targets dictated from Whitehall.

“It’s a straight choice,” says Andrew George MP. “Either Cornwall remains powerless to resist our countryside being swamped as it is turned into a developer’s paradise. Or we are given the power to meet local housing need first.

“The excessive building of unaffordable homes over the last forty years is part of the problem, not the solution. While the Government’s master plan lies in a persistent vegetative state, Ministers should give Cornish communities the right to give the priority to meet local housing need, whilst resisting developments which fail to help meet that need.”

North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson agrees: “The many unfinished housing developments in Cornwall demonstrate well that designing projects without the local market in mind is bad for everyone. Developers’ persistent pursuit of the second and holiday home market has resulted in there being blocks of unsaleable luxury properties in areas like Newquay but a serious shortage of affordable housing for local people who need it.

“The Government’s housing targets have done nothing to help. It’s their reliance on the downward pressure of ministerial tick boxes and distrust of communities to pressure councils for more affordable housing, which has put us into this dire situation. What makes them think a Council with 17,000 people on the waiting list would refuse to build affordable housing, if only they were given the funds and the freedom to do so?

“Despite Government targets, the construction industry is in crisis and people are still searching high and low for adequate places to live. Ministers should admit that the principle and the process of deciding a vast ‘regional’ spatial strategy has failed miserably, and give Cornwall the cash and choice to solve our own local housing problems.”