Stop speculative housing development
Letter to the editor, Sussex Express, 15 June 2020
If we are to fix our broken housing market it is important that Secretary of State Robert Jenrick acts in response to the plea from the leaders of all East Sussex councils (12 June 2020 Sussex Express).
In recent years the planning system has become more and more rigged to favour greenfield development, while brownfield town sites like Lewes North Street and Newhaven Marina lie derelict. What has been built locally has been mainly luxury housing, affordable only to those with London money. What we need instead is smaller and cheaper homes that match actual local need, built in towns where people can live sustainable lives.
Lewes and Ringmer are only 3 miles apart but, despite similar household incomes, Ringmer people own 50% more cars, and use each car more. Life in the countryside is inevitably car dependent, even in villages like Ringmer, where there is a reasonable (but very expensive) bus service. Other villages have no useful bus services at all. If our councils are serious about combatting climate change, their top priority must be to focus new house building where it is needed.
However, this isn’t what the Strategic Land industry lobbyists want, and they have the government’s ear. They don’t build houses: they just get planning permissions that they sell on. There is no windfall gain for them in re-using urban brownfield sites. Their profits come when land in the countryside gets planning permission, so its value rises a hundredfold. The less suitable the site, the bigger their profit.
New government policies requiring councils to have a 5-year housing land supply, to meet the new Housing Delivery Test and to have an up-to-date Local Plan all sound perfectly reasonable. That is how they are meant to sound to you. The technical details hidden away in detailed regulations mean they are all really just get-rich-quick stratagems to subvert sensible planning. Their only real purpose is to divert new housing away from vacant town centre sites and towards green fields in our countryside, to the benefit of the Strategic Land industry and its lobbyists, who now see the consequences of Covid-19 as just another tool to help feather their nests at our expense.
Over to you Mr Jenrick.