The housing shortage in the south-east is one of the biggest challenges we’re facing.
So, I was baffled when I read that the Local Government Association housing spokesman and Buckinghamshire CC leader Martin Tett (Con) had recently criticised Aylesbury Vale DC and curiously accused us of playing the ‘housing card’, giving us the upper hand regarding a unitary decision for Buckinghamshire.
We’re working hard to bridge the housing gap responsibly. If councils don’t step up to the plate with new housing schemes, the government could impose numbers on them, like in the bad old days. Control would be lost, together with any financial benefits such as new homes bonus.
The National Infrastructure Commission is clear that Aylesbury Vale and Milton Keynes are areas within the Oxford-Cambridge corridor that could accommodate essential housing growth and I believe it’s our duty as leaders to recognise that and plan accordingly.
Aylesbury Vale’s emerging local plan will provide over 27,000 new homes up to 2033, but demand won’t end there. This “mind-boggling” number, as Cllr Tett put it, is actually inflated by over 30% due to the unmet needs of the three other districts in Buckinghamshire and their future needs, together with an increasing desire to live in Aylesbury Vale, must be addressed.
We can all be Nimbies and hope that housing growth happens elsewhere but the reality is we should accept that some green fields can’t stay forever. I was born in Bletchley and when I saw the emerging plans for Milton Keynes I couldn’t believe those green spaces where I once played would become incorporated into a new town with housing developments and shopping centres. Fifty years on, the evolution of Milton Keynes is a real success story.
Housing growth must be done in the right way. We have a carefully considered plan on how this will work and believe it could delivered even more effectively under the two-unitary structure we’re proposing for the county, as we’d be working even more efficiently and in a more joined-up way, giving the best deal to residents and future generations.
It’s disingenuous to say that Aylesbury Vale’s playing the “housing card” with the Department for Communities & Local Government because of our endeavours to satisfy a chronic housing shortage. Our hand consists of more than one card. For instance, our technology is 100% in the cloud, we’re using artificial intelligence to develop customer services, our planning functions have been radically updated, moving from a deficit situation to a surplus, we were the first council to create a lottery, we’ve transformed working practices and over half our households now transact with us online.
I don’t believe a DCLG decision on restructuring will be made on just one card but rather the entire hand, and ours is getting stronger as we continually transform to increase our effectiveness and self-sufficiency and improve our offer to the residents we serve.
Neil Blake (Con), leader, Aylesbury Vale DC