In comparing house prices to wages, Crawley is the sixth most unaffordable place to live in the UK and it’s getting harder.
Last year we were the only top ten location for house price increases outside of London.
Yet, the Government’s ‘solution’ creates more problems than it solves, changing the law to allow offices to be converted into housing without planning permission. Presumably they’re assuming councils are the main obstacle to housing development, ignoring the fact councils approve 90% of applications and developers already have permission for 400,000 houses they haven’t built.
‘Planning’ exists for a reason, it ensures developments are fit for purpose, don’t impose on their surroundings and meet with the needs of the wider community. Freed from planning regulations, and aware of the money they could make renting out commercial property as housing, developers have turned local offices into hundreds of flats.
Putting aside the unsuitability of these buildings as housing, their impact on the town is a real concern. Without planning controls there’s no obligation for developers to provide parking or even a bin store, that’s why domestic rubbish is increasingly found dumped outside in the Town Centre.
The economic impact is even worse. Crawley was built with the industry in Manor Royal and housing in the neighbourhoods, ensuring that neither imposed upon the other. With the growth of housing in Manor Royal we increasingly see residential issues affecting the commercial attractiveness of the area and there are limits on how industries can reasonably operate next to housing. That’s before considering the fact we’re already short on employment land.
Finally, without planning restrictions, developers can now profiteer without following the town’s hard-won rules on affordability and the environment. All pain, no gain. Solving the UK’s housing crisis means addressing the core of the problem, not fiddling round the edges. Labour has committed to building 200,000 homes a year by 2020, banning unfair letting fees, capping rent increases and improving tenancy security through three-year agreements.The UK needs more housing but the Government must ensure that it’s housing which works for citizens and communities, not just developers.