Buttercross, November 14, 2014: Time to wake up to Swaffham’s housing problem

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One thing we can be certain of is that our country is short of housing which can be obtained by younger local people.

It is interesting to read that Norwich City Council has embarked on a programme of council house building with the government’s blessing, at least for the time being.

Since council house building fell away it appears the number of truly affordable quality homes has declined rapidly. Again, the government stipulated that a certain number of affordable units had to be included in any new development.

Planning applications were submitted with this stipulation known about and usually complied with, all during a recession when funding was an issue.

Now, as the time for commencement on site arrives, surprise surprise, some developers are saying it is not financially viable for them to proceed along the lines of what had been approved, despite the fact financing such developments is easier now.

Having received a request from at least one developer to reduce the number of affordable homes in one particular development (there may be more), our local district council has agreed to a lower number.

Bad news all round, except for the developer, and another step backwards for those who might have found a cheaper home.

Looking around us it can be seen how older style council housing forms such an important part of our town. The Oaklands, King’s Street, Queen’s Street, Prince’s Street, Coronation Grove, Pedlar’s Grove, Orchard Place, Orford Road. The list goes on. All well built, and with space around them.

Today, of course, many of these houses are in private hands, with many “let” following the Thatcher government’s introduction of the right to buy policy.

All very commendable at the time as it made a whole new generation into the bracket of being home owners. However, it was not long before many realised there was money to be made and sold their homes on at a considerable profit, thus this cheaper housing was lost.

Perhaps some councils will follow Norwich’s example and build more homes. Many will agree the present policy is totally insufficient to meet our needs, both in number and affordability.

In our town, if more such housing was to be built, it would need to be away from the present North/South route which is already under pressure. A new relief road would open up land for such development, either to the east or west of us.

Already Norwich, again, is busy building the Northern Distributor Road, which opens up such land. We appear years away from providing a similar scheme which would solve so many of our growing problems.

Perhaps someone in authority will soon wake up and get matters under way so our town can develop and prosper sensibly, as many local people would like to see.