Ask any Kent MP what issue - come rain or shine - fills their constituency postbag more than any other and I think they’d tell you the same thing: housing, writes Faverham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately, the Minister of State for Social Care.
It’s no wonder. We live in a beautiful part of the world and people want to protect it.
I feel exactly the same and understand the emails objecting to new homes.
But at the same time, I also get emails from people desperate to find somewhere to live that they can afford - people experiencing the consequences of the need for housing outstripping supply.
Besides from its impact on our countryside, we also know that new housing can put extra strain on our local infrastructure – like putting more traffic on our roads or making it harder to see a doctor or a dentist.
This is why planning is decided locally.
No one knows better what an area needs than the people living in it, and no one cares more about making sure that development goes in the right place.
As a government it’s our job to look at the bigger picture, think about our long-term national housing needs and decide how we’re going to meet them.
It’s undeniable that we have a national housing shortage.
That’s why in 2019 we pledged to build 300,000 new homes a year, and we weren’t alone in coming to that conclusion. In fact, all the main parties made similar commitments in their manifestos.
One problem is that because of the current allocations, the scale and pace of the development expected in areas like ours – beyond the protected green belt - has been really tough to keep up
I know how worrying that’s been for local residents, and that’s why along with other Kent MPs I’ve been fighting to get the current mandatory targets reviewed.
In fact, at one stage I met with the Housing Minister three times in a month to get our point across!
Just before Christmas we found out that we’d been successful, when the government put forward its plans for updating the National Planning Policy Framework.
'We can’t bury our heads in the sand about the need for more housing - there simply isn't enough...'
Not only have ministers proposed a move away from mandatory housing targets towards advisory, but there’s also tougher rules to make sure developers meet community commitments and a
renewed focus on finding more brownfield sites.
There’s a consultation on these plans running until March 2 which gives everyone a chance to have a say.
We can’t bury our heads in the sand about the need for more housing.
There simply isn’t enough out there and our children and grandchildren deserve the chance to own their own home.
Some of these homes need to be here in the South East, as well as in towns and cities across the country.
But I think where possible that development should be concentrated in urban areas and, crucially, coupled with the investment in infrastructure we need.
It’s so important that we hear from everyone in this consultation. People who’ve owned their own home for decades, people who’ve just managed to buy, and people who desperately want to get on the housing ladder someday.
Together we need to get housing right for people now, as well as for our children in the future.
To take part in the consultation, click here.
The consultation opened in December 2022 and will close at 11.45pm on March 2.
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