I visited two developments in Ludlow recently, the 44 Churchill Retirement flats on the former district council site and the innovative Beech Gardens development of 22 apartments and 4 bungalows. These properties are designed to help people live independently in their homes for longer, and are an encouraging sign that housebuilders and Housing Associations are stepping up their efforts to deliver homes needed in South Shropshire.
This was a helpful briefing before meeting the National Housing Federation in Parliament this week to discuss building sustainable rural communities, and how local housing associations are supporting rural areas.
The plain fact is that for too long in this country, we simply have not built enough homes to match the needs of our local residents, whether elderly or local people with young families.
Councils and housing associations like those in Shropshire are now able to access support to build more homes, at rents affordable for local people, through the Affordable Homes Programme 2016-2021. The Budget announced an extra £2 billion for this national programme, (increasing to £9.1 billion), to support construction of more new build, social rent housing.
Shropshire's planning policy (SAMDev) is now being reviewed to ensure it continues to provide enough land for development, under the National Planning Policy Framework. This included a consultation at the end of last year on the proposed scale and distribution of local development until 2036.
The key proposals in the consultation were for Shropshire to exceed the government's housebuilding targets, delivering 28,750 dwellings by 2036 - an average of 1,430 dwellings per year for the whole of Shropshire. Much of this will take place around Shrewsbury, but Ludlow and Bridgnorth as principal market towns will also play a part, as well as smaller towns.
I know local development is often met with scepticism by some. But we now have the opportunity and the national will to help do our bit to resolve the housing crisis - and to avoid a situation where young Salopians feel pushed out of the county through high housing costs, due to lack of new affordable housing.
There were more new homes built in the Ludlow Constituency in 2017 than 2016, still too few, though the pace is quickening. Developments like Beech Gardens and Callaughtons Ash development on the edge of Much Wenlock are creating new sustainable housing. We need this growth in new homes if we are to maintain viable communities for the future.