South Lakeland needs more houses

First published in Opinion

South Lakeland is short of housing, especially affordable housing.

This is bad for young adults unable to get on the housing ladder, bad for businesses and bad for the local economy. Eventually it will distort the vibrant community we all enjoy.

In 2003 the Government put a virtual block on land being allocated for housing. Some sites identified previously were even taken out of land allocation. In South Lakeland as few as 150 homes a year have been built in recent years.

This Government told local authorities to decide how many new homes were really needed.

In South Lakeland the district council had all-party support for its core housing strategy, which set out a need for an average of 400 houses a year up to the year 2025.

Highways authorities were consulted over traffic flows, utilities companies over services and the Environment Agency over issues like flooding.

Preferred sites were high-lighted in a Land Allocation Document, which was subject to a thorough consultation process.

On March 2 a further six-week consultation period was started to make sure the whole process was sound. Once all comments have been received, a public inquiry will held this summer.

If the document is accepted, it will be next year before a planning brief for each site and it will probably be 2014 before the families move into the first of these new homes.

Such a house building programme will be good for the economy.

It has been estimated that one and a half new jobs are created directly for each new home. Another one is created indirectly for sub-contractors or suppliers. That means that 400 homes a year will create 1,000 sustainable full-time jobs.

These will be in relatively well-paid crafts. The extra need for training and apprentices will be good for local further education colleges and our young people.

The Government is offering a New Homes Bonus Payment to the local community for each new home built.

There will be a knock-on benefit for spending in the local economy for people who sell carpets, white goods, furniture and similar.

Socially the key priority in South Lakeland is affordable homes. There are around 3,500 people in the district with housing need.

The Government has cut the funding for public sector affordable housing. That is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

That means the delivery of affordable homes will rely on the private sector. Affordable homes cost more to build than they are sold for, with the prices set by the council.

In addition a proportion of affordable homes will be for rent under the control of housing associations and SLDC.

House builders need land releasing and to be able to provide other private homes in the mix in order to finance the affordable homes.

We are proud of what we do: we provide people with a basic human need, a home.

At present those with housing need are being shut out of the system. The ‘haves’ are trying to protect their assets by stopping land being developed because it is near their homes.

The ‘have-nots’ need to shout up and let their voices be heard in this debate. We need to allow young people to form new households, new families, with sustainable employment in the area, to ensure a balanced, vibrant community. That is surely in all of our interests.

If you agree, write to South Lakeland District Council, South Lakeland House, Lowther Street, Kendal, LA9 4UQ; or register on the web-site www.southlakeland.gov.uk/ldf/consultation Cumbria House Builders Group includes several local companies and was created to discuss common issues affecting the ability to build houses locally.

  • MARTYN NICHOLSON, Chairman of Cumbria House Builders Group

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