Former Saffron Walden MP says ‘bitter political battle’ is preventing house building in Uttlesford
PUBLISHED: 10:02 02 May 2019
Lord Alan Haselhurst, former MP for Saffron Walden, says more houses are needed in Uttlesford, but the supply of homes had become “subject to a bitter political battle”
Lord Haselhurst shared his concerns about housing shortages across the country, and in Uttlesford, during a debate on housing in the House of Lords on April 24.
He said: “It has been a bitter disappointment to me that in the district of Uttlesford - the predominant housing authority in the constituency of Saffron Walden that I represented - there has hardly ever been a time when there were fewer than 1,000 names on the housing waiting list. The median house price in Uttlesford is £410,000; put another way, that is 12 times average earnings.
“More and more young people are being denied, despite the district council generally doing the right things: it has built council houses and entered partnerships with housing associations.”
Last year, 700 houses were built, of which around 250 were classified as affordable, putting Uttlesford in line with the Government target of 14,000 more dwellings by 2033, Lord Haselhurst said.
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“Supply and demand, however, remain completely out of balance,” he said. “The demand is fed by Uttlesford's reputation as being one of the most desirable places in the country in which to live: its proximity to London makes it a tempting destination for people who want to move from an urban to a rural environment, and it has a robustly healthy local economy, with jobs aplenty. The need for more housing is obvious - except perhaps to people who already have the advantage of living in the district.
“Controversy has stalked every attempt by the council to find ways of satisfying the increasing demands of successive governments.”
But Lord Haselhurst said only seven per cent of Uttlesford's 250 square mile radius has been taken by housing to date.
He said: “The hostility to new housing schemes has led to the formation of populist resistance groups which are clear as to what they are against but absolutely vague as to what they favour. It is deeply unfortunate that the supply of homes has become subject to a bitter political battle.”
Lord Haselhurst said the resistance to housing stems from the lack of infrastructure which should “march hand in hand with housing construction”.
Lord Haselhurst said he hoped the garden community concept would persuade people that housing developments could be carried out “sensitively and with palpable benefits”.