Island MP Bob Seely has taken his concerns over housing targets for the Island to the heart of Government by leading a debate in the House of Commons.
The debate was part of Bob’s campaign for putting the Island first, providing affordable housing for Islanders, in appropriate numbers, locally built, in existing communities, near services, whilst protecting the landscape critical to our quality of life and visitor economy.
Bob said flaws in the Government’s housing algorithm that would blight the Island would be replicated across the shire counties and at the same time reduce new housing in urbanised areas in the North and Midlands where it was really needed.
Bob’s view gained all-party support with high profile speakers against the Government housing proposals including former Prime Minister Theresa May.
His speech followed the release last month of Bob’s own vision for how new housing on the Island should be delivered – on brownfield sites in all but exceptional circumstances and based on local need.
Bob said: “We all agree, the market is failing first-time buyers. The answer is not greenfield sprawl, but a new generation of community-based, affordable housing accompanied by rent-to-buy schemes accessible for first-time buyers in existing communities in cities, suburbs and countryside.”
Opening the debate on Thursday, Bob said he wanted the Government’s levelling up agenda to include comprehensive plans for infrastructure, jobs and houses to revive overlooked Northern and Midland towns – not to continue the endless drift of jobs and opportunities to the shires and the South.
Mr Seely said: “Since 1960, the population of our beautiful small Island has grown by 50%. The message from many parts of Britain is that we have been doing our bit for decades and levelling up is about other people now doing theirs. The new standard methodology simply does not make sense for the Island.”
He said the current and new housing targets for the Island were unachievable and had nothing to do with the Island’s needs and would facilitate more housing for the mainland retirement market, not Islanders who needed them.
He said the Island’s own projected population growth was minus 11,000, therefore all the Island’s population growth would come from age 65+ locals and retirees.
He said: “If the Minister wishes to build for young Islanders, I will show him where and how to build, and I will tell him what we need.”
Mr Seely suggested a number of new approaches the Government could adopt with regard to its housing agenda moving forward which included VAT on greenfield sites, financial incentives for brownfield sites and a tightening of the rules around foreign buyers who leave property empty.
Speaking during the debate, Theresa May, said: “We need to reform the planning system. We need to ensure that that planning system sees the right number of homes being built in the right places. But we will not do that by removing local democracy, cutting the number of affordable homes that are built and building over rural areas. Yet that is exactly what these reforms will lead to.
“The Government need to think again, and they need to understand the impact that their proposals will have throughout the country - an impact that my honourable friend the Member for Isle of Wight so ably set out.”
Mr Seely called on the Government to allow MPs to help shape the Government’s housing policy.
In response, Housing Minister, Christopher Pincher, said he would ‘reflect carefully’ on what he had heard.