Sunday, December 04, 2011

Houses aren't evil

I caught a trailer for Channel 4 News the other day where the journalist was on a building site and said something like 'a rare sight in Britain, a house being built'. Except it's not that rare, in Basildon at least. We have had a steady stream of housebuilding down the years, and that has continued though the latest downturn in the economy. This is a good thing. Construction has a long supply chain, so and keeps a great many people in work, including the not insignificant number of builders and building suppliers in Basildon. There is also the simple fact that people actually need homes to live in. This should be obvious, but somehow and to some people it doesn't seem to be. We have an expanding population and our sons and daughters need somewhere to live. So, we need homes for starters, some social and affordable, some private, and then we need homes for those moving up the economic ladder, because we don't want to lose them to other communities. As per the title, houses aren't evil, but from some of the rhetoric applied to them you would have thought that they were.

Of course, the key point with housing is where you build it. In Basildon we haven't built on the Green Belt, preferring to keep in our current urban footprints. That doesn't mean blocks of little flats by the way. In fact, builders tell me that the best returns at the moment are from high quality family homes. However, the problem with a policy of building on land in the urban areas that is not Green Belt is the proximity of other homes, which often means objections. Some of these are justified, some are not, and some are put in terms that living next door to a newly built home leads to the destruction of mind, body and spirit. Houses really aren't evil.

It comes down to this. We need more homes, in Basildon and elsewhere, but we don't want to turn our semi-rural community into an urban sprawl. Local Labour's policy is 'not one brick'. It really is. They don't want any building anywhere. As far as they are concerned if you want a new home in Basildon, whether you are on the social housing waiting list or a company director, you can just shove off. Apparently, Basildon is perfect in every way you see. It's full. Move along. That this is crackers doesn't seem to deter them.

Meanwhile the grown-ups are getting on with managing actual growth, because the whole country needs it right now.

I don't know where Channel 4 were filming, but it wasn't around here.