Earlier this week, the Government launched a major shake-up of planning rules in England designed to increase the supply of homes for young people. Some may ask why. After all, last year saw the biggest increase in housing supply in England for almost a decade – over 217,000 new homes.
But it’s not enough. Without help from the bank of Mum and Dad, the door to home ownership remains locked for too many. It contributes to a justifiable sense of generational injustice.
The problem is felt here in Cheltenham. In 2017 Cheltenham was Britain’s biggest property price ‘winner’, with the highest percentage rise in house prices of any town or city. Whilst that’s a vote of confidence in Cheltenham, it just adds to the pressure.
Local affordable housing to rent or buy is vital to Cheltenham’s future. It affects everything. There’s simply no point in building a cyber park for example if young, talented, people can’t live locally. Investing £500 million in the Air Balloon roads scheme won’t boost opportunities if there isn’t a supply of homes for families.
So I welcome the decision to commit at least £44 billion of capital, funding loans, and guarantees to support our housing market. To put that in context, that’s more than the entire Education budget. We’re already seeing some of that investment here in Cheltenham, with the Government stepping in with £3m to kickstart the stalled Portland Street development.
And we’ve got to get tougher on developers. We must block them from sitting on land and watching its value rise. And we should end the developers’ wheeze of buying land at an overvalue and then pleading poverty in order to get out of building affordable homes. It’s simply unacceptable.
Let’s require them too to build only in places chosen by local people. After more than five years, Gloucestershire has now agreed its Joint Core Strategy. Attempts by developers to ignore it, with speculative applications in places like the Chargrove triangle should be roundly rejected.
It’s time to build in the public, not private, interest.