Parliamentary sketch – Housing need, not developers’ greed

Posted on: 13th December 2013

Before you start peeling the sprouts can I recommend that you take an interest in local planning policy. I know, it’s hard and difficult to get your head around, but it’s important.

Cornwall Council is considering increasing the housing development projections in its Local Plan and some local councillors think it’s a jolly good thing. In the meantime many of our local communities are facing applications for very large scale housing developments, presumably from developers trying to get their applications in before the shutters of the Local Plan come down.

The Council will consider this matter on 14th January 2014 and there will probably be a short period of public consultation thereafter.

The problem is that the pro development lobby often view the “antis” as “NIMBYS” who don’t care about the housing need of local families. Perhaps some of them don’t, but that simplistic view doesn’t help with a proper understanding of how to meet the desperate housing need of local families.

Seeing Cornwall as a developers’ paradise is part of the problem and not part of the solution to the housing needs of locals.

Cornwall is a classic example of where this policy simply doesn’t work.

Because Cornwall has grown faster than almost anywhere else in the UK. In the last 40 years the local housing stock has more than doubled and yet the housing problems of locals have got much worse.

Before I was elected I was involved in helping to create small schemes of homes specifically targeted at meeting the needs of local families either through housing association rented properties, shared equity or other means which would meet a local need in perpetuity.

I learnt that setting a high housing development numbers or designating large tracts of land acted against our efforts to develop for locals because there was a large ‘hope’ value for massive capital gains on land by property speculators. So no-one in those circumstances was prepared to sell their land at a price which made affordable housing possible.

It may sound counter intuitive, but the best way of meeting local housing need and to build homes which are generally affordable to local people on local earnings is to choose a low housing development figure, to stop housing development but then to permit some development where it meets a local need.

If market housing is too pricey in Cornwall then the best way of controlling that is to control second home ownership. I have long proposed that there should be a planning law which allows local authorities to restrict the numbers of second homes by forcing would-be second home owners to apply for planning permission for a “change of use” from permanent to non-permanent occupation of a residential property.

When I last undertook a survey of estate agents I found that four times as many properties were sold to second home buyers as to first time buyers! If we were to use a planning tool to constrain the numbers of second homes purchased in our area this would have a beneficial impact on the affordability of properties in the market.

So I urge local people to engage in the planning process and to urge the local authority to follow policies which will help meet local need rather than developers’ greed.

You can contact Andrew George by email: His constituency office can be contacted at Trewella, 18 Mennaye Road, Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 4NG. Telephone: 01736 360020.

Andrew George MP
Kernow a’n West ha Syllan
West Cornwall and the Scillies
Kwartron Porthia
Constituency of St Ives
Tel: 01736 360020
Fax: 01736 332866

10th December 2013

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