Changes to the Planning System
I have discussed this matter at length with constituents, the leaders of Tewkesbury Borough Council and Gloucestershire County Council to find out more about how they feel this will affect them. I have flagged these concerns with the Housing Minister privately and in the House.
I would like to start by saying that I am in full agreement with the Government’s commitment to supporting people to get on the housing ladder and owning their own homes. However, I disagree with the sentiment that simply building more houses is the solution.
It is pointless to come to Gloucestershire and build more three, four or five-bedroom houses. All that does is concrete over green fields, the green belt and, and floodplains still leaving us with unaffordable homes because the wrong kind of houses have been built.
I have asked that the government rethink the idea that having more houses makes them more affordable. In itself, it will not, and we have to think beyond just the housing numbers.
Councils, as I understand it from the White Paper, will be given the opportunity to designate certain land as protected, but I have asked that the government ensure that this protected land take precedence over the housing numbers.
We are already seeing problems with this mentality. I recently visited a housing development in Twigworth where 500 houses are being built on flood risk fields. This is simply not acceptable.
I am concerned that going forward with this algorithm or any other system that insists that my area builds thousands and thousands of houses, will continue to cause housing to be built on flood risk land and on the green belt.
From speaking to various stakeholders it is clear that we are all in agreement that we want more affordable houses, but the government have to ensure that they have redefined what “affordable” means and we have to build them in the right places ensuring that houses are not built on flood risk land simply to meet a housing target.
To find out more about the proposed changed to the planning system and to take part in the consultation please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future
As Member of Parliament, I do not play a direct role in the planning process. This is an issue for local councils and you may wish to contact your local councillor regarding planning queries.
Housing Supply and the Green Belt
Last year, I held a debate entitled "Housing, planning and the green belt". In this debate, I raised concerns regarding unsuitable developments, such as those being proposed to be built on green belt or flood plain. I also raised concerns that we are not building the right type of housing which is affordable my constituents. I will continue to raise these issues and you can read the full debate here.
Before being elected to Parliament, I spent three years working for Church Army raising money to create a hostel and day centre for homeless women in London. This work gave me an invaluable insight into homelessness. I came to realise that there are many potential issues which can lead to someone becoming homeless, family breakdown being the main one. Added to this are the problems of alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, mental health issues and in some cases the inability to manage one’s own affairs.Therefore, this is a very complex issue to tackle.
In 2017, the Government introduced the Homelessness Reduction Act. The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 came into force on 3 April 2018, signifying the biggest change to homelessness legislation in 40 years. This brought in new duties to prevent and relieve homelessness, such as:
- a new duty to prevent homelessness for all eligible homeless applicants and those threatened with homelessness, regardless of priority need
- an extension of the period ‘threatened with homelessness’ from 28 to 56 days
- a new ‘duty to refer’ on public services to notify a local authority if they come into contact with someone they think may be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless
Although there are no specific duties on housing associations, the sector can support many aspects of the Act, including making a voluntary commitment to notify the local authority if they come into contact with someone they think is at risk of becoming homeless.
In addition to this, the Government has also announced a £25 million funding boost to provide specialist support to help vulnerable people sleeping rough to recover from life on the streets. There is a long way to go in tackling homelessness and rough sleeping but these are positive steps towards doing so. You can read more about the recent announcement here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/brokenshire-confirms-over-25-million-to-help-vulnerable-rough-sleepers