CROYDON COMMENTARY: Not everyone thinks that the council-owned house-builder is doing a bad job. Here DAVID WHITE puts the case in favour of Brick by Brick
The housing crisis is getting worse because of Tory government policies, not because of anything done (or not done) by the Labour-run council in Croydon.
The government is not allowing councils to build social rented housing in anything like the quantities that are needed. Also, the right-to-buy policy is depleting the existing stock of council housing.
There are more than 600 families in emergency accommodation in Croydon. Tonight, more than 1,000 children will go to bed in emergency accommodation.
Faced with this situation, Croydon’s Labour council had two basic choices – either just accept the situation or try something novel like Brick by Brick. There can be a debate about the way Brick by Brick has been implemented, but I think the council was right to give it a try. If, by the time of the next local elections, 500 units a year are coming on stream, and at least half of them are genuinely affordable, I suggest it will be regarded as a success.
If not…well then might be the time to be critical.
The council has also been taking whatever other steps it can to meet the most pressing need – for social rented accommodation. This has included buying properties in the open market.
So far as planning decisions in the private sector are concerned, we have to bear in mind that the Mayor of London and the Government have both said that many more housing units need to be built to meet Greater London’s expanding population.
Croydon’s Local Plan, like other London boroughs, provides for intensification of development. The challenge is for this to be done without spoiling the character of particular areas and also providing the necessary schools, hospitals and other amenities required. All of the intensification can’t happen in the north and centre of the borough; the south needs to take a share.
It’s natural to be concerned if, say, a house near you is to be turned into several flats. I’ve experienced this in the area of Croydon where I live. However, if done sensitively the new development can fit into the existing environment.
Personally, I think more needs to be done by government to build up the economies of the regions of the UK, so there is less pressure on housing in London and the south-east. Other European countries are far less centralised than we are. This would alleviate the position, but there would still be a need to ensure an adequate supply of housing to meet the local need.
- David White, pictured right, is a former GLC councillor and until recently was the long-serving secretary of the Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party
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