Communities must take housing lead

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Local communities – through their Parish Council – must lead the development process for affordable housing. That was the main conclusion from Friday evening’s public meeting called by west Cornwall MP, Andrew George, at St Keverne Parish Hall.

Although communities on the Lizard peninsular are getting a higher level of affordable housing development than they have seen for many years, this will only scratch the surface of the problem experienced by local families seeking their first home and much more needs to be done in the years ahead, George told the meeting.

Officers from Cornwall Council confirmed that Parish Councils will be given the opportunity to drive the development process for their community and to work with local authority officers and housing associations to bring forward new developments to meet local housing need. This broad approach was supported by the portfolio holder for planning on Cornwall Council, Cllr Mike Clayton who attended the meeting.

George related his own experience of setting up local housing need working parties chaired by Parish Councils in the early and mid 90’s before he was elected to Parliament and which resulted in the development of scores of local housing projects.

He said: “The Government is happy for Cornwall to remain a developers’ paradise, with the building of an additional 70,000 houses in the next 16 years. The equivalent of 16 new Helston’s. But rural communities like those on the Lizard, should be more concerned about what kind of housing is built rather than how much is developed.

“Cornwall’s housing stock has more than doubled in the last 40 years, making it one of the fastest growing places in the United Kingdom. Yet, over that time, the housing problems of local people have got markedly worse. Therefore, simply building more unaffordable homes is not the answer to Cornwall’s housing problems.

“Local communities know what’s best and what’s needed. Finding new development sites for affordable rather than unaffordable homes for local people is not easy, but is best driven by the Parish Council. If we want to keep our local schools and shops open and to maintain living communities in which local people on local incomes stand a chance of a decent home of their own, then the initiative must be led by the local community. Cornwall Council, housing associations and Government agencies must be responsive and supportive to such initiatives.

Speakers at the public meeting were:- Trevor Ives – Regional Team Leader, Homes & Communities Agency, Jane Barlow, Head of Housing, Cornwall Council, Andrew O’Brien, Affordable Housing Team Leader, Cornwall Council & Jody Jeffrey, Affordable Housing Officer, Cornwall Council.

George decided to go ahead with the public meeting, although the Met Office had warned that no one should go out on Friday evening “unless it was absolutely necessary”. More than 100 people sent their apologies for being unable to attend the meeting. However, the meeting was attended by approximately 30 people, including representatives from a number of parish councils around the Lizard area.

George said he would be happy to repeat the exercise in a few months time to review progress.