‘House building’ always features very heavily in my post bag and it’s not difficult to understand why; the building of new homes impacts upon so many aspects of our everyday life, changing our environment and revising familiar localities permanently. Of course, we must build the houses that our children and grandchildren need, and this should include an appropriate numbers of affordable homes, but not at the expense of our existing communities.
That is why I am so concerned about the Government’s proposals to increase the number of houses Kent councils must plan to build. These changes, which are under consultation until the end of this month, will mean that Kent has to build 2,835 more homes per year. For us here in Maidstone, the changes equate to a 78% over and above the numbers in the existing Local Plan approved in 2017. That’s an increase from 883 houses per annum to 1,568 every year until 2037.
Housing numbers in our part of the Garden of England are already too high and Maidstone has already facilitated substantial growth in recent years. The lack of appropriate infrastructure to accompany much of that development means that our roads are creaking under the weight of traffic, school places are under pressure and access to a GP is becoming more difficult. To add significantly more homes into the mix without substantially improving the existing infrastructure is almost unthinkable.
I also believe that the government’s current proposals are inherently unreasonable; particularly to our local authorities. Whilst I often disagree with our councils about some of their planning proposals, such as the option to build 2000 new homes in Marden, I also recognise that local planners do a good job under difficult circumstances. To continuously ratchet up their housing targets with limited consultation and very little notice is therefore deeply unfair and demotivating.
Given my serious concern about the proposed changes to housing targets, last week I gained the support of ten Kent MPs to write to the Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick. We have asked him to look again at the Government’s proposals and to relieve the burden they place upon our communities in Kent. We have also asked to meet with him as soon as possible to discuss our concerns in more detail.
These changes will only succeed in arresting well considered town and country planning and undermining community trust and consent. I will therefore be doing everything I can to persuade the Government to think again.