March 17 – Toy Town Housing Solutions

This post-Brexit government has put housing at the centre of its agenda in recognition of its ability to drive forward the economy and the failure for decades to construct enough new homes. We have seen a plethora of initiatives over the last few years which have encouraged builders to build and made getting on the housing ladder possible for many. However we have not yet got close to the new start or completion aspirations suggested by government and the system which is controlled by the private builders lacks the energy to run for rampant growth, instead focused on profitability.

As publicly quoted companies this is their right, but as beneficiaries of huge government intervention there should be more in the “contract”. Many hoped that the housing white paper would brave the elements and give direction to the market. Whilst it touches on some solutions it is just not radical enough. The 14 garden villages delivering 48,000 new homes is a start but not the result needed.

Towns such as Milton Keynes that have boomed over 50 years, are off the back of being close to the M1 motorway, an excellent local road and shopping infrastructure that was laid down years ago and is also on the West Coast mainline railway. This has given employers confidence to site there and grow their businesses with certainty about housing and quality of life. Houses need to be close to jobs and transport links. It scares me to think that we actually need to create 4 more developments of the type and size of Milton Keynes (110,000 homes) south of the line from the Severn to the Wash in order to actually deliver what is required over the next twenty years as the UK population escalates towards 80 million people.

We can continue to tinker and evolve, but radical thinking and action is needed. Tweaking planning, driving brownfield, modern construction methods and energising local authorities will not be enough. Action needs to be now, not delayed as we consult on White Papers and drift through another Parliament. Clear targets with plans set out from the top down is the only answer, not waiting for local authorities to get their act together.

Robert Sinclair
March 2017