The Cereste-Jackson Housing Challenge

Following on from the Thurston House demolition debate and subsequent criticism of the Council’s housing strategy, the Leader of Peterborough City Council invites local MP Stewart Jackson to come up with his own vision for Peterborough’s housing strategy. Broadcast at 08:24 on Wednesday 28th July 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. Paul Stainton is asking the questions.

PAUL: Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson, he’s got plenty of work on his hands. Just broke up for his holidays yesterday and he’s been given some homework. Stewart Jackson has been invited to write an alternative housing plan for the city. It comes after the Regional Spatial Plan which sets targets for building was scrapped. He’s on the line now. Morning Stewart.
STEWART: Good morning Paul.
PAUL: Can I just ask you for your opinion on drinking across the city before we get on to the Spatial Plan?
STEWART: Well I think it’s a good idea in some parts of the city, because obviously there are some issues around anti-social behaviour, and a small number of retailers who are selling to underage drinkers. But whether the whole city should be a dispersal zone for no-drinking is I think is a big step, simply because if you put it across the whole city, it’s pretty draconian, and it’s difficult to actually enforce. If you put it in too large an area obviously it disperses people to other areas which aren’t covered by the order. So I think you need to think very carefully. But there are hot spots where it is a major problem. One of them for instance is Lincoln Road up towards the top of Lincoln Road towards the Salvation Army, where you do have a problem with vagrancy and problem drinking.
PAUL: Yes. And Charlie Swift painted a very bleak picture, really, a picture we don’t want of Peterborough this morning. And of course your Government is tackling the benefits, or lack of, of twenty four hour drinking later on today, which may have contributed to some of this.
STEWART: Well we are going to bring forward legislation, I think, although obviously we’ve had a lot on our hands with the Budget and the Academies Bill in the first few weeks. But there will be a social responsibility aspect of a Policing Bill later this year, which will actually look at the consequences of the 2003 Licensing Act, and actually seek to ameliorate some of the problems that have been caused, which is that we haven’t had a cafe culture. We’ve had lots of twenty four hour boozing, violence, and anti-social problems that police have had to deal with.
PAUL: So plenty of things to get your teeth into. That, you’ve got the Budget, and now you’ve got a little bit of homework for the Summer, I believe.
STEWART: Well when I met the Council Leader two or three weeks ago, we did discuss in the wake of the Thurston House planning application which we discussed on this programme, the issue of the Council’s wider housing policy. And quite graciously he said, well, we would welcome your views on this, and it would be helpful if you were to go away and make suggestions with us for a housing policy which you think would be better. Because obviously there’s lots of people going to be involved now in putting alternatives forward. We’ve seen the back end of the Regional Spatial Strategy. There is an examination in public before a Government Inspector later this year in the Autumn. And I think it’s a good idea for the City Council to take advantage of the breathing space at the end of the Regional Spatial Strategy to look at a much more ambitious housing policy. Yes of course we need social housing. Of course we need flats. But I think it’s a great opportunity for us to start looking at the figures as they are today in the light of the recession, population changes and employment changes, and actually have a much more upmarket and aspirational housing offer in the city, to try and compete with other urban areas around like Milton Keynes and Cambridge.
PAUL: Yes. It sounds like a lot of work though. It’s incredibly complicated isn’t it? How long is it going to take you to come up with this?
STEWART: Well it will probably take a while. But I’ve got a little while on my hands. It’s not that I’m not doing anything for the ..
PAUL: Forty days. (LAUGHS)
STEWART: (LAUGHS) .. I will be .. actually we’ll be back in Parliament on the sixth of September, which is about five weeks time. I’m going to have a brief holiday, but I’ll be doing my advice surgeries, I’ll be doing my casework etcetera, and I’ll be doing some visits. But I intend to keep the best of the existing Council housing policy if at all possible, and just try and move away from the concentration on rigid targets and numbers, to try and look at where in the city we could improve the housing, principally because we absolutely desperately need to get more people in the city who have got money in their pockets who will generate employment and entrepreneurial activity. People have criticised the fact that I was slightly critical of the social housing aspect of Thurston House. My point has always been that it’s not a sustainable long term economic prospectus to have people in the city who are welfare dependent. Yes there are lots of people who are desperately in need of help by the Welfare State, but there are a lot that could work that don’t choose to work. And those people, that’s not a basis for the city growing economically, and being successful in the next few years. So we need a mix of people and a variety of housing offer.
PAUL: Yes. It sounds like you’ve got a bit of writing to do this Summer. Staycation or Vacation Mr Jackson?
STEWART: Staycation.
PAUL: Staycation. Well enjoy. And don’t forget the sun cream. It’s going to get hot.
STEWART: Thanks Paul.
PAUL: No problem. Stewart Jackson MP for Peterborough, with a bit of work on his hands this Summer.