THE PRINCESS ROYAL HAS A POINT – GEORGE

The MP for the West Cornwall and Isles of Scilly constituency of St Ives, Andrew George, who is a consistent campaigner for a more radical approach to the meeting of affordable housing need in rural areas, congratulated the Princess Royal on her comments about housing and planning at the weekend.

Mr George said: “The Princess Royal is right. I used to do this kind of work before I was elected. Small developments of 5-15 (genuinely) affordable homes to meet demonstrable local need in perpetuity on the edges of local villages and small towns.

“Maybe the ‘garden city’ approach may work in other parts of the country? But the large scale swamping approach has failed in places like Cornwall. Turning Cornwall into a developers’ paradise is part of the problem not the solution to meeting our desperate local housing need. Cornwall is one of the fastest growing places in the UK – more than doubled its housing stock in the last 40 years – yet the housing problems of locals have got significantly worse.

“The planning system is fuelled by greed rather than by need. The ‘developers’ paradise’ approach adopted by successive Governments over the past five decades has fuelled ¬£multi-million hope values on all potential development land and a ‘get-rich-quick-and-blow-the-consequences’ attitude which leaves a legacy of shoddy development, poor infrastructure and service planning and local working families on long waiting lists with little hope of ever getting a decent settled home of their own.

“It may sound counterintuitive, but the best way to meet local housing need is, first, to stop development; and to only allow developments on the edges of our smaller towns and villages which meet local need, and in perpetuity. (Landowners and property speculators would have to forgo their megabucks as sites would sell for small multiples of agricultural value rather than the ‘Lottery wins’ which Planning Authorities allow speculators to trouser every time they connive to secure a major planning permission.)

“The colloquially known system of planning ‘exceptions’ should be expanded and strengthened, not weakened and undermined as it has been. That way, what the Princess Royal rightly calls for could be achieved. Well planned, well designed and much needed decent homes for those in greatest need and with the strongest claim; rather than developments which seem to have swelled the numbers of second and investment homes. These ‘local need only’ developments would help our communities survive and provide decent affordable homes for local working families.

“Do you think Princess Anne will explain this to Prince Charles? He has a lot of land which could be used in this way…”