Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What types of housing do we really need?

An appeal against refused planning permission for an extension on Chalmers Rd has just been turned down by the planning inspector. The application was for a two storey front, first floor rear and single storey rear (conservatory) extension, and was refused on the grounds of its appearance on the property and loss of light and outlook for the neighbours.

I can't recall this specific property, but this sounds like a good decision. I think there is a problem in this part of Coleridge ward with overdevelopment of sites, and consequently too many properties becoming shared use houses. The result is problems like those causing this application being turned down, plus the continual pressure on parking spaces leading to problems with verge parking etc.

By my estimates, well over 10% of the population of Coleridge live in shared houses. Whilst at one level this reflects the huge demand for housing as a whole maximising use of living space, the balance of properties is now leaving many groups seriously disadvantaged, mainly families with children on low or even average incomes needing to rent in the private sector. In Coleridge, as I found to my cost when looking earlier in the Summer, if you want a small room in a densely packed shared house, or an expensive yuppie flat, you have some choice. Finding a family type house with reasonable living areas is an entirely different matter.

Current housing and planning policies involve massive levels of central state control through strategic planning, housing targets and planning policy guidance. Despite a decade long housing boom, these policies have failed spectacularly to provide the types of housing people desperately need and actually want to live in. The problem is that Government thinks it can (literally) bulldoze through housing targets without the consent of local people, so funnily enough the plans that emerge leave neighbouring local residents aghast. The challenge is how to change these policies to work in the much more challenging market conditions we are in now.

The BBC showed a light entertainment style program last night Cheap Homes for Sale that covered a number of serious housing issues, where current policy is desperately failing. But the bit that made my blood boil was the sections on the Pathfinder program in Liverpool. I was aware of this before the program, but essentially this is an appalling social engineering experiment, that will cover several cities in the north of England, and will see thousands of beautiful Victorian houses needlessly demolished. The results will doubtless be every bit as disastrous as previous government housing mistakes involving constructing huge concrete tower blocks in the 60s. I would have many criticisms of New Labour over the last 10 years - it is going to be a long and painful process to fix their disastrous mismanagement of the economy - but their destruction of these houses is in the much smaller list of things they have done or want to do that are totally unforgivable.

I've digressed quite a long way now - full details of the planning inspectors decision on Chalmers Road can be found here.


Liverpool Resident said...

Hi there
We up in Liverpool have our blood boiling by Pathfinder as well - its absolutely horrendous and there are innumerable stories of personal community tragedies in the process without even thinking about the built environment damage oh and the shadowy free land deals to Bellway and Gleeson and Keepmoat Homes by the way - Nu Labour Government and Lib Dim Council know whats best for us though - And then when they have destroyed our communities and homes and heritage they will probably wonder why there are so many hoodies around who have opted out of society and waste millions studying that - Hurry up the end of this government and this Council

Perhaps your readers would be interested in signing this petition

Chris Howell said...

Sorry for late comment approval - the email got hidden! Happy to sign up to the number 10 petition, and I'll try to do some lobbying on this issue at Party Conference the week after next...