Housing remains one of the biggest challenges facing the UK government, with average income earners who can afford to buy a property falling dramatically over the last 20 years to just 1 in 4. The impact on local people has been devastating, stretching their already limited financial resources.
It is apparent that local councils are replacing just one third of homes sold under right to buy. The fact that more than a million families throughout the country are on housing waiting lists means councils must be allowed to keep revenue receipts from homes sold under right to buy, and build new homes. One way of achieving this is allowing tenants to exchange their rent for a mortgage, purchasing their homes over 25 years, reducing the burden on councils to maintain their existing stock, with minimum maintenance costs.
Recently applications for the development of flats throughout the borough of Southend have increased at an alarming rate, with Leigh, the Town Centre and Shoeburyness in the front line. So who benefits? Not the local residents whose neighbourhoods are decimated by these buildings.
At a recent council meeting it seems the Government are insisting our housing target per year is over 1,000. This compares unfavourably to the 325 previously planned, and now the whole Borough is a haven for developers to build blocks of flats. Developers can have meeting after meeting with the Councils planning department, with officers giving advice and guidance to ensure plans are conforming to whatever boxes have to be ticked to get approval.
Pride in where one lives
Currently, we have piecemeal development taking place, equivalent to another town being built in the borough, with the infrastructure within the town being strained to breaking point. Who is looking at the total picture? Who is making sure there are sufficient doctors, dentists, schools, employment and transport/road links?
We should not be against development and regeneration, but it has to be done at a pace Southend-on-Sea can absorb, not a Government policy. What is needed are developments creating communities, a feeling of belonging, and where pride in where one lives is paramount – you don’t get that in properties in the buy to let environment, where residents continually move and don’t put down roots. There is a risk that this will happen with the planned Queensway project.
by Cllr Ron Woodley
BERA Chairman and Independant Councillor for Thorpe Ward