At the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) General Election Hustings, held in Horsham on 21st March, the subject of affordable housing was one of the issues that came up more than once.
It is clear that people who have been born in Horsham, and/or work within the Horsham area, are suffering because of the inflated house prices, caused significantly by property developers taking advantage of the disgraceful changes to the planning legislation brought in by this Conservative-led Government.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is a broad brush policy that is pro-development, with a number of important areas that are open to interpretation which in reality will see developers win over the needs and views of the local community. The NPPF opens up a number of opportunities for developers to explore including:
Further support for building in the green belt;
Any council with a Local Plan older than 2004 looks vulnerable to planning appeals (which is the case in Horsham).
The framework is ambiguous in its attempt to balance viability against sustainability. The definition of sustainable development includes a social role for planning to support a community’s ‘health, social and cultural well-being’; affordable housing could certainly fall under this definition.
But the NPPF goes on to say that, to ensure viability, developments should provide ‘competitive returns to a willing landowner and willing developer’ and that the costs of including affordable housing should take this into account. In other words, if including affordable homes in a development wouldn’t provide ‘competitive returns’, then developers won’t have to build them.
In Horsham, we have seen the reality of the NPPF effects. Consider the 2,000 homes being due to be built in West Horsham, or the 4,000 homes to be built by Liberty in North Horsham. In both of these developments ten per cent social/affordable housing is planned. This is significantly lower than was in place when Labour held power. For Horsham this will mean ever increasing house prices creating a situation where only the very wealthiest households will be able to afford to live here.
Labour nationally is committed to addressing the housing crisis and will review all planning legislation in order to deliver many more homes for people of moderate and no income can afford.
Locally newly elected Labour councillors would oppose any large scale development such as that being proposed North of Horsham, that did not include a minimum of 50 per cent affordable housing.
We wish to create truly sustainable housing development and the planning process must be overhauled to deliver homes for people, not massive profits for developers, property agents and buy-to- let landlords.
Labour Parliamentary candidate for Horsham, c/o Wimblehurst Road, Horsham