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WE NEED MORE AFFORDABLE HOMES, SAY SOUTH EAST RESIDENTS

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Building affordable homes to buy or rent is a top priority for four out of five (79%) south east residents, reveals...
Building affordable homes to buy or rent is a top priority for four out of five (79%) south east residents, reveals a survey published today. 87% of people are worried about the cost of housing in the region.

The South East England Regional Assembly commissioned research company MORI to carry out a representative survey as part of its consultation on the South East Plan, the region's new 20-year planning vision. MORI interviewed over 2,000 residents from across the south east about their views on housing, transport and employment policies in the draft Plan.

In spite of the wide concern about the cost of homes, opinion is divided on the need to increase the general supply of housing. A majority (57%) regard providing more housing as a priority; a third (35%) think current rates of development should be maintained, while a minority (22%) want to step up house building. By contrast, a large minority do not think general housing supply is important (41%), and want lower rates of housing development than at present (38%).

Assembly chief executive Paul Bevan said: 'These results reinforce our message to Government that increasing supply is only part of the answer to improving housing affordability in the region. We also need to see new approaches to affordability and greater public investment in housing.'

Quality of life

89% of residents rate their quality of life as good. More than two-thirds (67%) say that the region offers good employment opportunities and only a quarter want to see less emphasis on economic growth. 40% think economic development should be focused on the less successful parts of the South East, while half say the more buoyant parts of the region should also benefit.

Environmental and infrastructure concerns score highly. Nearly all residents attach priority to reducing rubbish and pollution (96%), protecting the countryside (94%), increasing health services (93%) and tackling congestion (89%).

Other results of the survey include:

- When asked to choose from three housing options, opinion is almost evenly split between building at last year's rate (35%) and building less than last year (38%). 22% want to see more homes built than the past year.

- Over two-thirds of residents (69%) want to focus development in built-up areas, with half (49%) preferring to increase urban densities rather than use greenfield land.

- 43% want the same, 26% want more and 25% want less economic growth in the region.

- More than half (55%) are mainly concerned about pressures on hospitals and local health services when building new homes.

- Nearly all want to see investment in maintenance of roads and railways and public transport within towns and cities (96% and 92%).

Household questionnaire results

Alongside MORI's representative face-to-face poll, 'Your Shout!' questionnaires were distributed door-to-door across the region.

61,000 responses were received, but mainly from the older generation. Only 1% of responses came from people under 24 who make up 12% of the region's population. By contrast, 43% of responses came from retired people (24% of the population).

In all, two-thirds of responses came from people over 55 and the survey results reflect their more cautious view towards change:

- 70% favour more affordable housing; 44% favour more housing generally

- 68% favour building fewer homes than we did last year

- 20% favour building at the same rate as last year

- 9% favour building more homes than last year

- 46% want to see economic growth at current levels; 10% want to see more growth

Research for the draft South East Plan, 2004-2005

Over the past year MORI has conducted three surveys for the assembly interviewing nearly 6,000 residents. Key consistent findings from all three surveys are:

- Quality of life in the south east has been rated highly (around 90% in all surveys). Only 6% are dissatisfied with life in the south east compared to 11% in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humber and 12% in London.

- Housing and transport are the region's biggest problems. The cost of housing and road congestion have been of particular concern to residents over the last year.

- At the beginning of 2004, 82% stated traffic levels are a problem across the South East and three quarters (73%) felt that roads and public transport were not good enough to support further housing development.

Notes

1) The research reports by MORI, including Wave 3 - the latest report, are available on the assembly's website, http:www.southeast-ra.gov.uk/southeastplan/consultation/opinion_polls.html

2) The timetable for the preparation of the draft South East Plan can be viewed on http:www.southeast-ra.gov.uk/southeastplan/publications/updates/update-may_2005.pdf

3) Further details of consultation responses will be added to the assembly's website when analysis of comments is complete, please see www.southeast-ra.gov.uk/southeastplan.

4) Consultation on the draft South East Plan Consultation was from 24 January to 15 April 2005.

5) The South East England Regional Assembly is the 'voluntary regional chamber' for the south east. It was established in January 1999 to give a representative voice to the south east region, which covers Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, East and West Sussex, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, and Surrey.

6) The regional assembly is made up of 112 members including elected councillors nominated by the region's local authorities and 37 representatives from other sectors of the community (including business, trades unions, education, housing, health, sports, culture, tourism, faith groups, environmental, community and voluntary organisations) as well as the New Forest National Park Authority.

7) The assembly has three areas of core business:

a) It is the representative voice of the south east, engaging and representing its member organisations and, through them, the wider public.

b) The assembly has a specific role under the Regional Development Agencies' Act 1998 to ensure the accountability of the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) to the region.

c) The assembly has been the regional planning body for the south east since April 2001. It has responsibility for proposing strategic planning and transport policies to government.

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