Jumbo Housing Developments No Longer Welcome

Conservative MP Stewart Jackson points out that small sustainable housing builds are the Coalition Government’s new policy, and the giant greenfield sprawls favoured by Peterborough City Council do not fit with current political thinking.

07:09 Monday 29th November 2010
Peterborough Breakfast Show BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

SHANE O’CONNOR: It’s nine minutes past seven. Eye residents met on Friday over the Council’s new housing plans for the village. Peterborough City Council originally wanted to build more than three hundred homes in Eye, but reduced this to eighty five because of complaints from locals. But for some people in Eye, eighty five homes is still eighty-five too many. MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson is on the line now. Stewart good morning. Thanks for being with us.
STEWART JACKSON: Good morning Shane.
SO’C: Now you were at the meeting, were you?
SJ: Yes I was at the meeting. And I think it has to be said, for over a hundred people to turn out in bitterly cold weather on a November evening, shows that they’re very concerned about this. Indeed, many of them are very angry still about the proposals to build more residential development in Eye.
SO’C: For people who don’t know and haven’t been following the story as closely, or for people like me who are visiting, the whole story began, what, as a result of quotas to build houses? Or how did it begin.
SJ: Well the councillors used the Regional Spatial Strategy, which was the policy, the regional policy, which was first imposed by the previous Government, to justify this huge building programme, twenty five and a half thousand homes over the next sizxteen years. And that was scrapped by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State in May. And the capacity and the decision making process has gone back to the local authority. But instead of stepping back and listening to local people, and thinking about things like infrastructure, and whether they’ll be jobs for all these new people in the city, unfortunately our City Council has decided it’s going to plough on with this huge target. A part of that target is putting in a lot of houses to Eye, which is already really dealing with the problem and strain of residential development in the existing time. So it’s very very difficult for people in Eye to understand why they have to take more housing, when other parts of Peterborough aren’t, and indeed the City Council aren’t taking the opportunity to think it through.
SO’C: So the meeting itself, was there any kind of resolution at the end of it?
SJ: Well the resolution obviously was that the local councillor David Sanders and myself will continue to campaign, to try and persuade the City Council that it wasn’t appropriate to build outside the village envelope, which is the key issue, and that the Council had until the Full Council meeting on the 8th December, local councillors had an opportunity, all the councillors, to think again. And that’s all we’re asking them to do. We’re not saying that Peterborough doesn’t need growth. But we are saying that they need to take into account the new Government policy, and the recession, and all the other factors, and step back and give it some thought.
SO’C: The difficulty with these kinds of issues, this is happening up and down the country, isn’t it of course, is one of displacement, and the fact that people are accused of being a NIMBY, if they object to anything like this. And of course I’ve said this before on the radio, what’s wrong with being a NIMBY? Not everybody wants a nuclear reactor behind the shed.
SJ: Well exactly. And my point is I’ve actually become so frustrated at the City Council’s intransigence and dogmatic attititude, that I’ve actually written my own Housing Strategy Paper, which I’m going to publish in January. I’ve had to delay it, because there’s so much new Government regulation, or rather policies, that have come out from the new Coalition Government, which affect housing, like the New Homes Bonus, which is going to give local authorities money directly to build homes via the Council Tax. But it’s not a question that we don’t want growth, but as I say we want to be thinking about growth, water supply, community centres, all the things in a fast growing area that are important. And at the moment it’s just this obsession with the quantity of housing numbers. And that is not going to do anything for the balance between housing people, which is important, but also the quality of life of existing residents.
SO’C: So have you got a plan then Stewart, or have you just got an objection?
SJ: I do have a plan. And one of my plans actually is to use the Government’s policy, which is community right-to-build, which actually gives people a say when they want to build very small scale additions to their village. And if you think of how many villages there are in the city of Peterborough, lots of them aren’t sustainable. They’re losing their bus service, or they might lose their GP surgery or their Post Office. Some of them might want to have a couple of dozen new homes for young families, key workers. And some of them might not. But it will be up to them. That’s the new Government policy.
SO’C: Has any of that been taken up yet. Has anybody come forward? Because maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think villagers will be saying, oh yes, I’d love to have another hundred houses at the bottom of that field, and get rid of the field. It’s not going to happen, is it?
SJ: No well that’s the point. It’s not a hundred. The Regional Spatial Strategy, because it’s been predicated on massive numbers, was about a developer coming along and saying we’ve bought that field, we’re going to put four hundred low-quality so-called affordable housing units there. And obviously villages have said no, we don’t want that. What this is about is saying actually, if you want your village to be sustainable, i.e. enough people to make it a going concern, and also retain the quality of life, then what about building another six, eight, ten houses, and givving them a vote on that? That’s the policy. And cumulatively, across the whole city, that will increase the housing stock, instead of forcing people to take massive housing numbers.
SO’C: And what’s your best guess? Are the eighty five houses going to be built in Eye, do you think? Or is that number going to be reduced? Or are there going to be no houses built there? What’s going to happen?
SJ: Well I do think that the City Council, both the councillors and the officers, have an opportunity now to understand the strength of feeling and concern for people in Eye. And I do think that there has to be, there should be some development, but I think even eighty five is probably on the high side. Local people have said that they are in favour of about two dozen prestige homes near the A47, and I think that’s about it. And start looking at other parts of the city where sustainability is an issue.
SO’C: Because that’s the issue, isn’t it? People will want to know where are the other two hundred and ninety or three hundred or whatever category they fall in to, where are these houses going to be built, if they’re not built there?
SJ: Well the irony with Eye of course is it’s fully sustainable. It’s got a library. It’s got a butchers and bakers, and a community centre and doctors. It’s not struggling for lack of people to keep it going as a viable entity, whilst at the same time retaining its character. But there are other parts of the city. These council officers are paid significant amounts of money. They should be looking at using the Government’s policy to deliver what we all want, which is more homes for local people.
SO’C: Stewart, got to leave it there. Thanks for your time this morning. Appreciate you joining us. Stewart Jackson, MP for Peterborough joining us on the show.