BBC Look North had an item on George Osborne’s new housing plans last night, as he was in Morley yesterday. The discussion was regarding the Chancellor’s housing ambitions, and where houses could be built.
The Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum was asked to take part, and we were questioned about the 200,000 houses a year the Government say is needed, and what that meant for Aireborough. We stressed the point that houses were only the start, and a ‘community’ needed infrastructure and facilities as well: that Aireborough has had unbalanced growth, that Leeds reported on as far back as 2007; with many houses, (just over 3,000 since the year 2000), a loss of employment, and next to no investment in infrastructure and facilities – leaving many issues to be faced.
“In the 42 years I have lived in Guiseley I have watched it slowly become over-populated and in all honesty a nightmare to get into and out of… there are more and more residential developments in progress, so life is only going to get worse… I used to love living here… now it’s a means to an end” Guiseley Resident 2014
As is normal in these things, we were given one sentence, and there is some footage of the Rawdon protest march earlier this year. However, there is also an interesting interview from the Homebuilders Federation from London which says they will have to build on green field, but stresses that green belt land is not to be built on – a degree of stress that looks like the Government’s planning guidance on the harm caused to green belt by inappropriate development (NPPG 045) is getting through, to house builders at least.
There was also a good point made by the new head of Leeds Planning, Cllr Richard Lewis, about developers only building what is demanded and profitable, not what is needed. Demand versus need is a fundamental economic principle – when does a 20 year old need a house, and when to they have the ability to demand one – ie they have the means and ability to buy and run a house, and wish to live in one of their own. Housing targets work on need, not demand; developers build to demand, not need.
The MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, made an important point about more local involvement and power in planning and planning decisions – something that the Forum along with many other groups from Menston Action Group, WARD, Rawdon Green Belt Action Group and others have been saying for a good few years now. It is only local people who can know what development is needed, and it is for the planners to listen, support, and guide those ambitions. Leeds is too big, and too varied for a small group of planners, to know and understand each area and the intricacies of what it needs – which is why we get descriptions of Aireborough as being on the Leeds, Harrogate line in plans approved by the Council, a small mistake, but a symptom of a bigger issue !!