Housing – Green Question Time 2015

On 10th April we hosted a Green Question Time, attended by Steven Jackson (Conservative) and Angela Smith (Labour) and chaired by Paul Bridges.
Here is the question about housing:

What do you think about future brownfield development and the protection of greenfield sites? How will housing be made affordable and sustainable in the Penistone area?
Housing site

Angela Smith for webThis is a big issue. There is a clear policy need to provide homes for young people, as currently so many are still living with their parents. It is estimated that there will be a shortage of 2 million homes by 2020 at the current rate of house building.

Affordability and sufficient housing are the two needs. Help to buy has resulted in escalating house prices. It boosts growth but is unsustainable. Labour would build 200,000 more houses per year and this requires capital investment and more local authority house building. The Housing Revenue accounts should be allowed to be used to increase the housing stock. Labour would not allow Housing Association tenants the right to buy.

Rural housing must include affordable housing. The current situation is that District Valuers have allowed Section 106 agreements for affordable housing to be dropped after appeal by developers. Renting is also important because the price of homes is escalating so that the deposit is beyond the reach of most people. The present average deposit is £72,000 including London prices and it’s getting worse not better.

We need to find ways to involve communities more and incentivise them to be part of the solution. Oxspring Neighbourhood Plan is a good example of how this might work. Oxspring has developed a Neighbourhood Plan which included housing and 30% of resident responded to the plan. This plan has accepted the need for new build and residents have had a say in where it should go. I believe that Barnsley MBC is open to adopting the Oxspring Neighbourhood Plan if it can do so. Penistone ought to think about taking up the Neighbourhood Plan option.

When a community makes a plan, Labour will make it legal for local people to be given first choice of new houses and will give local communities the power to allocate land for first time buyers. The neighbourhood plan will be used to determine where houses are built and what type. We will prioritise building on brownfield sites first but will also need to look at some greenfield.

In Penistone, so much housing is proposed that the population could increase by 40-50%, which is very problematic. It is clear that affordability is a major issue and that people do not want 5-6 bedroom executive homes.

I am determined to help build agreement on the best way forward in Penistone.

Steven Jackson for webLocal people should be at the heart of the planning process. We need to ensure that local people are genuinely involved in the development of neighbourhood plans and are not intimidated by bureaucracy.

Barnsley MBC’s priority is not affordable homes, but housing does need to be what people can afford. People need to stay where they have family connections and a network of friends. We also need to ensure that local services are increased when there is new housing – bus routes, post offices etc.

My personal feeling is that the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework, brought in during the last parliament) doesn’t go far enough in protection for green field sites. The Greenbelt is protected from development but other green areas are not. The Conservatives will reduce developer’s commitments to affordability and community benefits as an incentive to build on brown field sites.

The Help to Buy scheme has been successful in encouraging social mobility. We need 200,000 new homes to get people onto the housing ladder. The NPPF was designed to get Britain building and never as a comprehensive housing policy. House building which is infrastructure led is the core of Conservative policy.

Audience Questions

What about the relaxed approach to development on flood plains?

Isn’t housing entirely driven by the greed of bankers and not needs of the community?

Why is so little attention paid to infrastructure such as increased traffic and capacity of schools?

Penistone wrote a Community Lead Plan which was rejected by BMBC, as Neighbourhood Plans had come in by then. This is disheartening for everyone who put time and effort into it and discourages community involvement.

Angela Smith for webLabour would prioritise flood prevention within DEFRA and take a long term approach to the issue. Flooding is an issue for local authorities; for example in the local plan, the allocation for Scout Dam could be problematic, as there is already a flooding problem in that area.

Transport and schools have to be planned as part of sustainable development. Labour would set up a National Infrastructure Commission to deal with these strategic issues. I have made comments in response to BMBC’s housing plans about the need for infrastructure.

The funds invested in Help to Buy ISAs ought to be used to invest in new housing stock. Housing capital would be prioritised by an incoming Labour government.

Steven Jackson for webSchool places are a vital issue, otherwise children will be farmed out to schools over very wide area – this would be unacceptable. We also need sustainable housing.

There is a need to regulate bankers but individual countries have limited power. Reform would therefore have to be agreed by leaders at global level.

I would be against using the Housing Revenue Account because its main role in the maintain the existing housing stock (rented by the council) and is needed to protect the interests of tenants.

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