In January 2016, a national paper found that the nine biggest housebuilders were sitting on enough land to build 615,152 homes, 475,000 of those had planning permission but had yet to be built. Just up the A3 is the promised Whitehill and Bordon new ‘Green Town’ proposing at least 3,350 new homes but it has still to be built. We have every right to ask not only about these allocations but also the countless unoccupied properties throughout London that have been bought as investments and kept unoccupied, driving London based employees to find homes elsewhere.
If the Government can bully us, its electorate, into accepting a reduced quality of life by snatching our few remaining, accessible, green spaces and overcrowding our roads, then why can’t it demand that 1) the big developers’ planning permissions be started – and completed - within months not years, 2) there be restrictions on empty London properties? This comes down to political will. Sitting on empty properties fuels property speculation, ironically contributing to housing shortage.
The UK Housing White Paper, delayed (as of writing) until January 2017, assumes that our population is set to increase by 10 million in the next 25 years but we don’t know where those numbers will be nor an explanation for the exponential – realistic? – increase. Since the UK currently only produces 60% of the food we need, it is deeply worrying that our Government and wider society are not making our existing population more efficient and better qualified to ensure essential services are met; our already densely populated nation must be able to provide the majority of our highly and lower skilled needs. Equally we lose well qualified, younger people to more discerning countries where tighter regulations preserve quality of life.
Havant BC endeavours to present the Borough as providing all things to all people: “Hayling Seafront… annually attracts 6,000 visitors to the National Watersports Festival and 3,000 to the Virgin Kitesurfing event.” The “high quality coastal environment” is praised as are the holiday centres for “all year round” appeal. The A27, A3(M) provide a “Prosperity Corridor” for “global companies”. But how many people will continue to either move to Havant Borough – including Hayling – or even visit us as our essential transport links become impossibly choked by daily traffic? If one knows that congestion makes snail pace the norm, why seek either employment or even a relaxed holiday in such an area?
The Local Plan Housing Statement Supplementary Changes acknowledges there are problems on Hayling Island arising from flooding, highway capacity, the single access to the Island, healthcare, education and the provision of utilities (Appendix 2 Paragraph 3.24). Havant B.C.’s own Principles of Community Involvement require it to involve “stakeholders” – that’s the residents – at various stages and “To be truly effective, this must provide appropriate opportunities for information, participation, consultation and response.” (2.5ii)
Let’s start that engagement. Please ask friends and neighbours on Hayling if they have had or know of specific problems with roads, drainage, water, Health Service, new ‘change of use’ sites. Let us know what they are: firstname.lastname@example.org or in a sealed envelope marked HIRA to our Drop Box at the Library, HI Community Centre, Morris Dibbens or The Terracotta Pot and Gift Shop. I wish you all a happy New Year!