Last week in my piece for the online edition of Downs Mail I heralded a meeting scheduled for last Thursday (16th July), between Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) and officials from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, where MBC were seeking to mitigate the heavy housing burden prescribed to our town by central Government.
This week I am delighted to be able to report back in the first printed edition of Downs Mail since the Covid-19 lockdown started in March. Prior to last week’s meeting I spoke separately about the issues with Housing Minister Chris Pincher. My aim was to encourage him to work with MBC constructively to accept a reduction in the numbers and extend the timescales for delivery within our local context. The upshot of that discussion, and MBC’s subsequent meeting with officials is as follows;
The Government remains steadfast in its commitment to build 300,000 new homes a year across the country, but there may be potential for some reduction in our local housing numbers. Existing plans were based on forecasts of local housing need from 2014, but local numbers from 2016 and 2018 both show a reduction in need and I believe the Government may be willing to review this in the Autumn, in order to maintain public confidence in its approach. Let us see.
Furthermore, I was encouraged by the fact that Government may be willing to work with MBC to provide ‘bespoke advice and assistance’ relating to its plans for the delivery of garden communities. I would hope this might mean allowing Maidstone to deliver a greater proportion of its housing in the latter years of the plan period to account for the fact that these types of development take longer to complete due to their large scale and complexity.
I do believe that garden communities could be an important part of the solution for Maidstone. However, they must be properly planned with appropriate road connections and sufficient other facilities. I do not, for example, believe that the 2000 homes proposed for Marden constitutes a true garden community; but rather an ill thought through plan which would harm a well-established existing community.
I will continue to keep the pressure on as this process unfolds and do everything I can to ensure that new houses are only built in the right numbers, in the right places and with the required supporting infrastructure.