Development is one of the thorniest local issues. On the one hand, we are blessed with 57% greenbelt in this borough – and we want to protect our open spaces. On the other hand, there is an acute shortage of affordable homes.
The government’s answer is twofold. First, to scrap the top-down housing targets (such as the notorious South East Plan) and replace them with a policy that allows local councils to set their own housing policy in consultation with local people. Second, to incentivize the provision of affordable homes, government will give councils extra investment for each new home built – to help pay for extra public services and infrastructure.
This approach makes sense. It allows the local community to determine the balance of development, and offers carrot not stick, to incentivize provision of new affordable housing – whilst remaining sensitive to the wishes of local residents. This week, I opened Wardur Court and House, 22 new homes in Walton built to blend in with the neighbourhood, to an energy-efficient design and available for rent and shared-ownership. This is the kind of new housing that will help us ensure young couples and key workers can live locally – which is important for sustaining a vibrant community.