I was interested to read Planning Minister, Nick Bowles’s comments about grandparents “propping up their kids and grandkids” in the Telegraph recently. The article related to Mr Bowles’s comments that unless people agreed to support new development and make housing more affordable, senior members of society would face the very real prospect of financially supporting the younger generations.
Mr Bowles said “It is immoral that young people are being priced out of the housing market because of a lack of cheap homes. The housing shortage is a bigger threat to social justice than poor education and unemployment”. Strong words, but I think he has a valid point.
In a speech last Thursday, Mr Bowles said that greenfield land must be built on. He announced a scheme that would enable communities to receive funding for new facilities if they agreed to support new housing developments. Mr Bowles’s approach also shows frustration that reform of the planning system has not sparked a building boom. Mr Bowles had said “People had to recognise that either they will spend their retirement propping up their kids and grandkids, or they can accept more development so their grandkids don’t have the problem”. He also went on to say that “I genuinely think that the single biggest way in which we are failing to deliver social justice in this country at the moment is unaffordable housing – more than schools, more than jobs, more than benefits”.
He highlighted figures showing that if the price of food had risen in line with housing over the past 30 years, a chicken would cost £47 and a jar of coffee £20! When you look at it like that, it is clear that action needs to be taken. Mr Bowles said “In the 1990s, the average person setting aside five percent of their income each week could save up a deposit on a house after eight years. Today it would take the same person 47 years”.
Clearly Mr Bowles believes that the public must accept that more building is required on greenfield sites, and juding by the above I think he’s got a point. He continued “We need to build more, not all of it can be satisfied by empty homes and brownfield sites, so we will need to build quite a lot on undeveloped land. England is not massively overdeveloped”.
I think it’s fair to say that many people will disagree, particularly with the last statement however, I think it’s quite clear that as a country we need to provide significantly more new homes than we have been doing in recent years, and clearly local planners, as well as senior residents have a huge part to play. I think it will be an interesting few years for planning and building on the whole, and looking close to home their are certainly many dozens of sites on the periphery of the green belt in Leeds and Bradford that would do well to have new houses built on them. Clearly there is a need for some fresh thinking….