Call by MP for York Local Plan to be rejected was irresponsible and poorly researched
Claims by Rachel Maskell MP that people do not live in high-value, luxury apartments built in the City Centre, and that the homes were purchased as “an investment, or they are used just for holidays and race days or weekends”, don’t seem to be rooted in fact.
Maskell also claimed the push for more City centre accommodation is “an experiment in social cleansing”, relying entirely on anecdotal evidence to support her assertion.
She repeated her claims last week
Publicly available statistics confirm that,of the 1036 homes built in the first 6 months of the current financial year, 637 were aimed at students. Student needs reflect in both housing targets and outturns. Most of the flats were built on Lawrence Street. They are hardly “luxurious” or “expensive” but they do not count as affordable housing (because it is tied accommodation)
Provision of specialist accommodation of this type reduces the pressure to convert family accommodation into student lets.
Between April 2017 and September 2017 planning permission was also granted for 892 new homes. These included large developments at The Barbican, Nestle, and Hungate. (Only 3 were for student accommodation)
The emerging Local Plan provides for 867 new homes to be built each year. This compares to an average of 686 completed over the last 5 years. At least 20% will be “affordable”.
Historic figures (see below) reveal that there has been a spurt in house building in the City over the last 3 years. Before that, five years of recession took a toll on house building numbers.
The housing waiting list has stabilised at 1200 (excluding those seeking a transfer) with people waiting on average for 12 months for a new home. The number of homeless, presenting to the Council, is now around 100 a year (down from a 10-year peak of 258).
Lack of land clearly is not an issue impacting on the granting of planning permission for new developments in the City.
The Council might be criticised for not releasing funding to buy properties on the open market to increase the social rent pool. It had run a surplus of over £20 million on its housing account for over 6 years (although very recently it agreed to release some of the surplus to ease social housing demands).
In addition, the total amount of unspent payments in lieu of affordable housing that the council currently holds is £4.325m.
There are issues to be addressed. The apparent spike in “rough sleeping“ has previously been highlighted.
Over the last few months the Council has guaranteed a hostel bed for anyone found sleeping on the streets. It is an initiative that seems to have worked during the recent period of cold weather.
York desperately needs a Local Plan.
Funding the endless revisions has debilitated the Council’s budget with an estimate of £10 million already having been devoted to the process.
Arguing that the current proposals should be abandoned is both reckless and shortsighted.
Some revisions to the text might be expected, but the basic thrust of the document is right and, most importantly, deliverable.