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£170m Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) at risk for developments on Hoo Peninsula

Infrastructure for more than 9,000 new homes is at risk after a national agency recommended to withdraw funding for a £170m programme.

Medway Council is urging Homes England to continue to back the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) to deliver new roads on the Hoo Peninsula.

Labour leader Cllr Vince Maple
Labour leader Cllr Vince Maple

If the funding is withdrawn, the millions of pounds of investment would not be used towards infrastructure such as roads on and around the Peninsula, public transport, access to green space, and employment opportunities.

But the leader of Medway Council said this “would not stop new homes coming”.

Medway has a government requirement to reach 28,500 new homes by 2040.

In March, the council put forward a detailed plan of how the scheme could be delivered within the £170m budget which had been agreed in 2019 after first being proposed in 2017.

It took into account rising construction costs and high inflation across the country.

The council has written to the chairman and chief executive of Homes England, requesting an urgent meeting, as well as to the minister responsible for HIF in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

Plans for more than 700 homes in High Halstow have been submitted
Plans for more than 700 homes in High Halstow have been submitted

While Homes England has recommended the funding be withdrawn, the future of the HIF funding will be decided by Rt Hon Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for the DLUHC.

Cllr Simon Curry, portfolio holder for climate change and strategic regeneration, said: “The implications for this are severe.

“The Homes England recommendation, if accepted by DLUHC, clearly compromises our ability to deliver a sustainable community for Hoo, with an additional 9,531 houses, and also puts into question our ability to deliver our local plan by 2025.”

Leader of the recently elected Labour and Co-operative administration at Medway Council, Cllr Vince Maple, said: “The HIF funding underpins the aspirations of the council to deliver the full potential of sustainable growth on the Peninsula as part of our vision for the whole of Medway.

“We need Homes England to be pragmatic, work in partnership with us and explore all the options that would enable the provision of critical new infrastructure ahead of new homes and jobs.

Cllr Simon Curry, Medway Council
Cllr Simon Curry, Medway Council

“Critically, stopping the HIF project would not stop new homes coming. It will stop the vital roads, public transport and public access to green spaces that current residents have been clamouring for.

“It will also jeopardise crucial new jobs coming to Medway. Importantly, the HIF funding unlocks other contributions from developers to support the delivery of vital infrastructure such as new schools, health care and community facilities.

“It is vital that new homes are built in the right locations, alongside places to work and learn, with the right roads and community infrastructure to sustain Medway’s economic and social prosperity of which the Housing Infrastructure Fund is the backbone.”

Cllr Naushabah Khan, portfolio holder for housing and property said: “The pressure to deliver housing is still there so that does not go away.

“I think there will be those who think that because we no longer have access to this funding, that means that that pledge for housing will not exist anymore.

Cllr Naushabah Khan. Picture: Medway Council
Cllr Naushabah Khan. Picture: Medway Council

“Unfortunately that’s not the case, it means that necessary infrastructure that we need to support that housing is now in jeopardy and I think that should be a concern for everybody.”

Deputy leader Teresa Murray said: “All the things that it was going to deliver have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing and the future prosperity of our towns.

“We don’t want to deliver new houses that haven’t got the infrastructure. We want development that is in the right place where people want to be and serves their needs.

“This was a huge blow and we were heartbroken when we heard about this.

“I remain optimistic that Homes England, who after all still want to get these housing expansions, will understand without the HIF everything becomes less likely to happen, and what does happen won’t be anything like as good as we want it to be.”

Cllr Teresa Murray (Lab), Medway Council
Cllr Teresa Murray (Lab), Medway Council

Tristan Osborne, portfolio holder of community safety and enforcement said: “We welcomed the £170m government funding to invest in a series of different aspects. This includes transport infrastructure, new roads, potentially new bus links, and other types of sustainable transport initiatives.

“Importantly, green spaces and parks as well as to protect our natural environment on the Peninsula, and these are all in peril because of this situation.

“The risk of housing on the Peninsula still remains but the loss of infrastructure is concerning and will have serious impact.

“This is £170m of funding at risk for all of Medway, not just the Peninsula. Our communities need investment. That is a mortal blow to our area and we need to challenge it as much as possible.”

Cllr Tristan Osborne (Lab) said Homes England’s recommendation was a “mortal blow”
Cllr Tristan Osborne (Lab) said Homes England’s recommendation was a “mortal blow”

Plans for a new railway station and passenger service connecting the Hoo Peninsula to Gravesend were paused in March due to high inflation, increased construction costs, and pressures on public spending.

Last month, residents of High Halstow said they were concerned about a Redrow proposal to build 760 homes in the village, which they said does not have the infrastrucure to support the development.

Geraldine Barry, whose house backs onto the land proposed for the development, said: “There’s just the one main road in and out of the village. We need another way out of here before they build more houses. Our roads can’t cope as it is.

“We also don’t have enough doctors to support that many new people. They can’t support the people living here already.”

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