I KNOW many residents are angry that the Government is looking to impose up to 20,600 houses upon us. I have always argued that local people know best. We know that this quantity of housing – the equivalent to a town the size of Lichfield– being squeezed into our borough will just not work.
What is hard to believe is the Government do not appear to have listened to the local people. The West Midlands local authorities had been working together to identify just how many and where additional housing needs can be met.
Some authorities actually do want more housing as part of their regeneration plans. But it appears, as ever, that central Government thinks it knows best.
Last week I launched a Green Paper outlining Conservative plans for local government, with the emphasis on localism and a blueprint for local democracy.
We have been quite clear that, under our plans, all regional planning and housing powers currently in the hands of regional government will be abolished, returning powers and discretion back to local communities. This means that the Regional Spatial Strategy which outlines the plans for over 20,000 houses in the Borough will be scrapped.
This doesn’t mean that no houses will get built in the borough as there is an obvious need for affordable housing with over 10,100 people on the council’s waiting list.
As the recession gets deeper and more and more construction companies slow down their house building programme, the whole ethos of top down targets imposed centrally must be questioned.
In the current economic situation, a bottom-up approach where local builders meet local demands will succeed. But massive housing programmes for even more housing stock when we are experiencing a flat housing market is doomed to fail.
Our localism plans will put local people in the driving seat, and cut back interference and meddling by Whitehall bureaucrats. However greater powers for local government must also be accompanied by more openness, greater accountability and new measures to protect the pockets of local taxpayers.