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Housing Forum

A Housing Forum debates the lack of affordable housing and problems for young adults wishing to remain in the village

A public forum was organised by Bramshott & Liphook Parish Council last month (22 July), and it attracted more than 40 parishoners, along with developers, local business people and District Councillors plus East Hampshire District Council’s Head of Building Control.

The meeting took as it’s starting point: Can local planning laws help to regulate and ensure provision of a mixed housing stock. Cllr Simon Coyte (who chaired the meeting) contended that there are too many large houses being built, too many smaller properties being extended, and consequently there are not enough “starter” properties for younger people, thereby driving away local people who cannot afford larger, more expensive homes.

With the debate started, Cllr Coyte then invited John Hilder, from local estate agents Keats Hilder, to present his thoughts to the meeting. John started off by agreeing that there are not enough smaller, affordable homes. John made the point that if a developer were to successfully build new, or convert existing buildings, into studio apartments or smaller flats, he would have absolutely no problem in selling them! The same was true of smaller, one, two or three bedroom homes.

“The largest demand is from families, requiring larger properties. People might say that there is a shortage of bungalows in the Parish, but the planning rule PPG3 is flying in the face of new bungalows. Central government has decreed that we must build more and more properties on smaller areas of land, so there is little hope of seeing any further bungalow building,” explained John Hilder. Land is too scarce and too expensive to build sprawling new properties with large gardens.

The subject of land values was touched on in the meeting, with the situation being described as “complex” and indeed the view from several in the meeting was that it was local land-owners who were driving the housing market, often sitting on large plots of land adjacent to existing built-up areas, with a view of “cashing-in” as land values continue to rise.

“It’s a sellers’ market,” commented one parishoner, who went on to say that builders were so short of land to develop, that they constantly outbid each other to secure smaller and smaller plots, thereby leading to denser and denser developments.

It was the view of Ian Ellis, EHDC Building Control, that it might be possible for local planners to specify what type of dwellings are erected on particular sites. “Census indicators are showing high levels of 3-plus bedrooms, yet occupiers are usually 6 in number or less and the 65-plus age group is expanding – yet we are not seeing smaller dwellings going up. Planning authorities and communities are finding this very alien and out of character. But builders erect what they are encouraged to – and what they know they can sell. Perhaps EHDC could insist on specifying specific types of dwellings – it’s certainly something which Councils are beginning to realise they will need to do.”

Part of the problem is the legacy of the Thatcher years, when consecutive Conservative governments forced local authorities to denude themselves of public housing stock. Although this gave tenants the right to buy, and many welcomed the opportunity to buy homes at discounted rates, it also meant that the supply of publicly-owned properties ceased to exist. The only “affordable, lower cost” properties now available, are those administered by housing associations. Some of their stock was passed over from Councils; others have been developed since large amounts of public funding have been channelled into housing associations.

Other local issues, which were raised during the meeting, touched on:

  • the development of the King George’s Hospital site. There is a new proposal to build a 150 homes development on the site. These will be expensive and exclusive retirement homes, creating a retirement village-type of estate.
  • The Village Design Statement, which will lead to a Village Plan. These documents will lead to a Supplementary Planning Guidance brief, which could be very useful for the local planning authority. Cllr Jim Walters will be launching the Village Appraisal survey in the Autumn.

    Conclusions:

  • An overall structure is required that will emerge as we move forward with the Village Appraisal
  • Schools are overcrowded
  • Health Centre development. With a growing population, the two local surgeries are at capacity and there might be a good case foe developing a new, complete Health Centre, pooling resources and offering a wider range of treatments. This might also free up two central village sites, where the existing surgeries are.

    Report by Freddie Dawkins (© August 2003)

    Article posted on: 11 August 2003

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