- Wessex is being overdeveloped. Between 1981 and 1998, the population administered by Berkshire County Council rose by 15.2%, that administered by Hampshire County Council rose by 13.7%. The figure for Wiltshire was 14%. Over the same period, Merseyside lost 7.4% of its people, South Yorkshire 1% and Tyne & Wear 3.4%. There is no shortage of homes. The problem is in matching homes to jobs. Nothing illustrates more graphically the failure of centralist ‘one-size-fits-all’ policies than this. While Wessex disappears under concrete, whole estates in the north of England are boarded-up and sliding into dereliction. Within Wessex, the economically buoyant areas of the Thames Valley are facing paralysis as house prices rise to the point where public service workers can no longer afford to live there. The cost to the NHS of treating illnesses caused by inadequate housing is actually greater than the cost of providing adequate homes, as well as tackling the backlog of repairs across all housing sectors. Unfortunately, the environmental cost of re-locating the nation’s housing provision from north to south is vast and the damage it is doing is not repairable.
- Development plans foisted on Wessex by the Government stated that half a million new houses must be built in Wessex between 1996 and 2016. This inevitably meant rates of consumption of our natural environment that were clearly unsustainable. Wessex Regionalists demand an end to house-building that does not meet demonstrable local needs. We must start to plan, not for population growth but for population decline, if we are to achieve the quality of life we want and deserve. There must also be stronger incentives to deal with the under-use of our existing housing resource so that present and future needs can be met without unnecessary loss of greenfield land.
- The Right-to-Buy has decimated the rented housing stock and left high-price areas unable to house essential workers. It will be abolished, the decision to sell or not to sell being taken democratically through local elections instead. However, we do not believe that large district councils make the best housing authorities. Parish councils will have the primary responsibility in this field, with management contracted out to housing associations and co-operatives where desired. Within towns and cities, housing management will be decentralised to estate level. Democratic tenant participation schemes, housing co-ops, self-build schemes and co-housing projects will be supported to increase community involvement in housing management. To enable local authorities to meet local priorities, the funding rules will be greatly simplified.
A regionalist government in Wessex will:
- tax heavily the occupation of homes by those working outside Wessex
- abolish the Council Tax discounts available on unoccupied and second homes
- tighten Building Regulations to ensure the highest standards of accessibility and energy efficiency in the housing stock, while providing greater flexibility to ensure the preservation of historic buildings of character
- change the VAT rules so as to favour renovation rather than new development
- abolish the Right-to-Buy and transfer housing powers to parish councils
- allow councils the freedom to spend Right-to-Buy capital receipts as they see fit and spread the cost of new council homes over thirty years in PSBR accounts (not just one as at present).
Meanwhile, the Wessex Regionalists will:
- oppose the development of housing to meet demands for national economic growth that take no account of the consequences for the environment and communities of Wessex
- campaign for a publicly-accessible, region-wide housing needs database to link supply and demand.