There’s quite a focus on housing this week.
Earlier this week there was a bill passed in parliament which will have the effect of making ‘CPOs’ (Compulsory Purchase Orders) easier.
These powers will help to deliver major infrastructure developments which can bring about significant social and economic benefits to communities. CPOs are a last resort to acquire all the necessary land to deliver a project, and there must always be a compelling public interest case to use them. But that being the case these can now be enacted more quickly, more fairly and with greater transparency. These powers can relate to projects like our new shopping centre to come, the A27 and Gatwick expansion would be other examples.
That was Monday.
Then on Tuesday I receive a communication from an authoritative national house building body, ‘delighted’ to inform me of quarter 2 figures for 2016 – zero new home starts built in Eastbourne??! And that, completing a run of zero returns since mid-2015! Obviously an automated communication which hasn’t quite captured the full picture.
What is incontestable is that building new homes in Eastbourne is seriously challenging, courtesy of our seaside and downland setting.
And as I write this column, Wednesday, just before Prime Minister’s Questions, I have been working on how I can attend a planning meeting tomorrow in Wealden – train strikes notwithstanding.
Herald readers will know by this point whether the committee has determined whether a new housing estate can be built on the beautiful green land at Brodricklands – a controversial local issue not least because it puts in jeopardy a more significant development in the area which could deliver a much needed new medical centre and school places.
What I find so frustrating in all of this, is that we have a serious number, hundreds in fact, of ‘homes in waiting’ on brownfield sites across the town, mothballed sites or worse, land banked. The Belmont near Sovereign Harbour, the Old Pump House in Upperton, the Police Station in Grove Road and there are plenty more examples.
The forthcoming housing bill (which has its second reading in January) will help further address other blockages in the system, and I am hopeful that we will then be in a position to see more of these valuable sites come into play.
Housing is one of the major challenges facing this country and that’s been the case for decades; sometimes controversial, often difficult – but vitally needed.
Home ownership is a key driver of social inequality not least through inheritance for those families able to pass on a property or its proceeds to the next generation. That’s one of the reasons why the government is determined to open up new opportunities to housing association tenants. Despite the rise and fall of the property market, it has proved over time to be a top investment. After all, they’ve stopped making land!
Member since: 11th May 2016
Caroline is the the former MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon, and this blog was one of her her regular updates.