Building? Yes please. Just not there. Or there.

Till we have built Jerusalem
On England’s green and pleasant land

They say confession is good for the soul. So, here goes: my name’s Fiona and I think I may be a NIMBY.

There, that felt better. Except, no, actually it didn’t.

The recovery that we’ve all been waiting so long for is finally upon us. But it’s very, very precariously balanced. House prices and new build levels are soaring away, just as they did once before. However, they are leaving an increasingly large number of people behind them.

Help to Buy has done its stuff in helping people who couldn’t raise the deposits on the homes they wish to buy to do so, with the difference between what they can scrape together and what the mortgage lender is prepared to accept, guaranteed by the Government.

But with house prices themselves still way ahead of what a goodly proportion of the population can afford, it isn’t going to solve all the ills of the housing market.

George Osborne did, bless him, make some sensible comments in his Autumn Statement (I can’t believe I just typed that) when he said: “if we want more people to own a home we have to build more homes” and we need homes that ordinary people can afford and afford at all stages of their lives, not just when interest rates are at ridiculously low levels.

So we need to build more houses. The trouble is, where do we build them? This blog has already praised the proverbial cojones of planning Minister Nick Boles for telling the CPRE some unpalatable truths about the need to build on parts of the Green Belt.

So I do feel a bit of a fraud for objecting to my local council’s suggestion that they build a new town ‘cultural hub’, replacing the existing theatre and council offices incorporating ‘community and leisure facilities’.

So far, so good, except that they need to fund it by also building housing (much needed, I’ll admit) and retail facilities. To do this they want to build a ruddy great access road through the football fields where my son (amongst many others) plays on a Saturday morning. The council statement tries to persuade us to vote for one of the three, equally ludicrous options by saying that 90% of the football pitches will be retained and that it’s “only” the Under 9s that will be affected and that they will be relocated. Yes, to a part of the field that slopes!

I understand where the council is coming from. The current buildings that they and the theatre occupy seriously need updating and refurbishing but with the swingeing cuts from the coalition, there just isn’t the cash in the council coffers to do it. So bringing in the developers to do the housing is probably the only way that it’s going to get funded.

So, I get why they want to do all this. It just annoys me that they seem to have plumped for the easiest option and given us three slight variations to choose from, none of which take into account that the access road goes straight through the football club’s (admittedly downtrodden) facilities and the existing car park, easy access to which is the only thing keeping the high street shops going.

Apologies for the slightly parochial tone of this blog, but that’s us NIMBYS for you.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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