Housing and Planning

Houses for first time buyers and Council tenants

I understand the frustrations of young people who are struggling so to get on the housing ladder.  There have been welcome steps for first-time buyers with the Conservative’s stamp duty relief measures but this is not enough to fix the underlying issue: there simply are not enough affordable homes. 

Look at London housing prices and you will get an indication of the conundrum young people face.  How can anyone be expected to live in London, work in higher paying jobs and save money to buy when the houses near their work costs many hundreds of thousands of pounds?  Or they are willing to sacrifice their time commuting to reach affordable homes and the lower prices are more than offset by the cost of a season ticket on the train to London, let alone the costs of getting to the station and parking for those who own a car.  This is not sustainable.  Mobility is being stifled and workforces are limited.  It is time to get a grip on this issue. 

The Government has introduced measures to reduce rents, help first-time buyers to save for a deposit, and restrict foreign buyers from buying up properties as investments.  All of this is welcome but we simply must build more houses if we want to unleash the potential of young people. 

Councils face similar issues, with local housing stocks concerningly low.  It is standard practice that local people and people with familial connections are prioritised by the Council.  Afterall, if your network of family and friends are in an area, those in need are more likely to receive the support they need. 

But we have seen this system exploited by London Boroughs which have bought up housing stocks in Tendring so that tenants can be moved out away from their own local housing supply.  Sometimes this is done with difficult tenants and the problems and costs associated with this sort of behaviour is shifted onto the Tendring Council and the local police. 

The Leader of Tendring Council has campaigned to have this addressed so that local homes are available for local people and I fully support him in this. 


Garden communities

The proposed development at West Tey, known as the West Tey Garden Community or Settlement, has understandably caused a great deal of local concern to the East of Colchester and understandably so.  When the plans were first announced for a new town consisting of 20,000 homes I was sceptical of how it could be done successfully.  Given the need for new, affordable homes, I gave the proposals the benefit of the doubt.  However, I made clear from day one that these plans would only ever be a success if two vital components were included in the scheme.  First, the scheme should be developewd with an 'infrastructure-first' approach.  That is to say that public roads and services should be upgraded at the begining of the prodject so as to avoid any capacity issues.  The communities East of Colchester are all to aware of the strains on the railway, the gridlock on the A120 and the pressures on the local NHS services.  How major developments could occur before these bottlenecks are addressed is beyond belief locally. 

Secondly, I always pressed for the proposals to be drawn up with wide consultation and input from the local community.  They are. after all, the people who are most affected by a new town on their doorstep.  If the plans were to have any chance of success they would require local support.

Enough time has now been given for these ill-thought out plans and it is clear they are not progressing or securing public support.  It was always an overly-ambitious proposal.  Thus far, there has been little in the way of progress, a groundswell of local opposition and a feeling from the constituents I have spoken to that their concerns are being ignored.  It also appears the Planning Inspectorate is going to rule against the plans again.  It is now time for the councils involved to think again about this and consider much smaller, more manageable proposals, like those seen in Poundbury.  The new town at Poundbury is much smaller and draws a great deal more support.  This is why I have taken Councillors from Colchester, Tendring and the Essex councils to see what makes Poundbury such a success.  It is now time to draw up a plan B to meet the need for new housing without further delay. 

     Sir Bernard Jenkin meets representatives of the Campaign Against Urbal Sprawl in Essex (CAUSE)



Speculative developments

There have been a spate of speculative applications for housing developments across the Tendring District which seek to be overturned at appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, despite the local council opposing the proposals.  Places like Manningtree, Mistley and Lawford have been inundated in particular. 

It is not an acceptable situation when local decision-making by elected representatives can be so routinely overturned.  This is why I wrote to the Planning Inspectorate making clear that the forthcoming local plan in Tendring should carry weight in determining the appropriateness of applications.  Aside from the obvious issues with local planners being undermined, the approval of these proposed new builds jeapordises the plans being drawn up for a sustainable housing supply.  I am hopeful that decisions on these speculative and opportunistic developments will no longer be overturned against the wishes of local people.  If they are, I will take this up with the Government again to ensure that local people are not cut out of local decision-making on planning.