Our town and borough has a chronic housing shortage. Born out of a multitude of factors such as Thatcher’s disastrous Right to Buy scheme in the 1980s (which saw huge swathes of our country’s council housing stock sold off and never replaced), the failure of successive governments to build adequate levels of affordable and social housing, and developers producing low quality properties or unsuitable apartments at prices that are out of reach for most people, Stockport is now feeling the effects of years of undersupply.
Add to this the political shenanigans and “not in my back yard” approach to development by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on Stockport Council and we are now facing nothing short of a housing crisis in our town and borough.
And it didn’t need to be this way. The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) presented a vision that was bold, ambitious and which provided a solution to the growing housing need. 180,000 homes would have been delivered across the region and built the infrastructure our community needs, supporting families in Stockport for generations.
Instead, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors on Stockport Council colluded and conspired to sabotage the GMSF and wreck it – not only for those in our community, but also for the nine other boroughs across Greater Manchester who were all in agreement with the plan.
Ironically, had those same Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors voted the plan through, they’d now have been facing fewer homes in our borough. Now, we’re left facing a situation where the Government’s own calculations mean that Stockport will need to find more space and build even more homes.
But it’s the types of homes that are the crucial factor here. Families across Stockport need good quality properties that are of a decent size and give people space to breathe. That means looking at areas beyond the town centre; unfortunately, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats believe the solution is to simply cram everyone into high rise blocks that are completely unsuitable – as well as an eyesore – and do not offer longevity for families.
That means making some uncomfortable decisions in order to accommodate the figures that the Government is demanding, such as considering parts of our green belt in exceptional circumstances. It also means allocating a fair share of houses across the borough. However, rather than engage with the council on these issues, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have instead adopted a NIMBY approach that fails the very members of our community they claim to represent.
From speaking to many of my constituents on this issue, they don’t just want four-bedroom semi-detached houses in hard-to-reach rural areas, or expensive flats in the town centre; they want a suitable mixture of good quality housing that is fit for 2021 and beyond.
As well as size, scale and quality, we also need to deliver housing that is at the right price and we cannot allow people to be left to the mercy of housing developers that price them out of the market and out of our town.
And, if we really want to plan for the future, we also need to invest in the infrastructure that will enable us to sustain the increased demand on services such as schools, health and transport facilities.
If we fail to achieve this mix, how can we be expected to meet the acute housing need as well as ease the burden of all those who’ve been on housing waiting lists for years?
It’s time for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to put up or shut up.