Chippenham needs an approved housing development plan ASAP

Click HERE to read my latest column in the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald.
Gazette & Herald Column, Chippenham, 17 Dec 15
Let’s be clear, there is a huge need for more housing locally. For too long, an entire generation has been locked out of owning their own home, with home ownership levels among 25 to 34 year olds falling over 20% in the last 10 years. We have a housing shortage crisis which has pushed up prices further as well as decreased availability. This has been recognised by the Government who have introduced new schemes to help promote house building and to enable people to get onto the property ladder.

Owning a home gives people a stake in their area and community. Enabling the young to get onto the property ladder encourages them to save and to aspire. In fact, making it harder for people to own a home makes it less likely that people feel they have a stake and are attached to the area in which they live. It is certainly not going to encourage the ‘aspiration nation’ that I campaigned to help create during the election. What is vitally important though is that housing is in the best location for our economic viability, our infrastructure and strategic vision.

I appreciate the concerns that have been raised by local residents over new housing in and around the town. Questions need to be asked about employment, provision for health services, schools and transport links. But we cannot avoid the houses that are needed. In short, development is vital, but we must ensure it benefits everyone in our town. The discussion shouldn’t simply be about finding people somewhere to live, it should be about enabling people to find places where they can live well, to help create a sense of community.

There have been delays in the formulation of Chippenham’s local development plan. I have concerns that without a credible local plan there is a real risk that planning laws work against our community and as a result development will be forced upon the town whilst the issues with the local plan are ironed out. That is why on Monday in Parliament I asked the Minister responsible for planning to look at ways of ensuring that aggressive planning applications are not imposed upon our town whilst the details of the local plan are being finalised.

The advantage of local plans cannot be overstated. They ensure that communities can help shape the nature of the development and, if done right, will help provide the doctors, dentists, roads, railways, schools and jobs that we need. They also help the community to protect important green spaces, flood plains and good quality agricultural land.

I want to see the local plan developed as soon as possible with the maximum community support, so that we can improve Chippenham towns, lives and infrastructure, bringing the shops, entertainment and jobs that everyone tells me they want to see.

I hope that, together, we can develop a robust local plan as soon as possible, and use the much needed house building for the benefit of the town that we all care so much about.