Two of the most significant announcements at Conservative Party Conference were to increase support for Help to Buy, and to increase housebuilding across the country. It is common knowledge that successive governments have failed to build enough housing in this country – and that for too many young people, home ownership seems like an impossible dream. So these two measures, taken together, will start to make a real difference in people’s lives.
These were particularly timely announcements for our area, as Shropshire Council are currently reviewing the Local Development Plan, to ensure local development keeps up with changes in national policy, and to ensure that future development will meet local needs.
The proposed ‘Preferred Options’ will be put before Shropshire Council cabinet next week, after which a public consultation will run from Monday 23rd October for 8 weeks (to Monday 18th December). More information will become available on www.shropshire.gov.uk. Of course, local development can prove divisive. But I would urge all those who intend to respond to the consultation to reflect on the challenges we face both locally and nationally.
In Shropshire, we need to boost the supply of housing for families, or we will see our sons and daughters pushed elsewhere by a spiralling cost of renting or buying a property. Our local businesses and services, including schools, are reliant on working age families either staying here or coming here, to contribute to the local economy.
Of course, ensuring housing is affordable is also important, and social housing has a role to play in this. The average number of social housing units completed per year decreased during the Blair/Brown era, but that number has been restored, and is now almost equal to the social housing units completed per year under John Major’s government. The additional £2bn for new affordable housing announced at the Conservative Party Conference, taking the total up to £9bn, could help to build 25,000 such affordable homes, which will be a further welcome addition.
Locally we know the scale of the challenge – while it is of course important to protect rural areas from overdevelopment - that does not mean we should seek no development at all. I encourage local residents to have their say once Shropshire Council’s consultation opens, to ensure local development is appropriate, but also to ensure that Shropshire plays its part in developing sufficient housing for future generations of Salopians.