The Tories have failed the Vale, letting developers build houses against the will of our communities, ignoring the infrastructure we need and failing to deliver the affordable housing our towns and villages want.
I was delighted to have the opportunity to address local people at the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group's rally in Wantage Market Place on Sunday.
The inappropriate housing developments that have been permitted across the district by planning appeal inspectors are due to the Tory district council not having a 5 year supply of land to build houses. This is because developers are not getting on with building on big sites such as Grove airfield. Labour will tackle this by fining developers who are landbanking - who have planning permission but are not building. The other reason is that the Tory district council accepted in full the economic growth target for the Vale and the consequent huge number of houses required. The government's planning rules actually allowed them to reduce the number of houses because so much of the Vale is a protected landscape, but they failed to do so. Indeed, I am very concerned that the inspector may reject the Local Plan because it includes extensive building in protected countryside around Harwell, returning us to a planning free-for-all.
The government's planning framework fails to prioritise brownfield sites for development and Labour will correct this. We will also allow councils to increase council tax on empty homes. Finally, a Labour government would devolve £30 billion of money currently spent by Whitehall to local councils. This will include money which can be spent by councils on building new, truly affordable houses themselves.
Labour will build 200,000 homes nationally per year over the next 5 years, but that doesn't mean such large numbers need to be built in southern Oxfordshire. We will spread economic growth across the country, instead of simply overheating the South-East. The principal need is for affordable housing, in small developments in villages (which the Conservatives have also made much more difficult by increasing the threshold before a developer has to provide them from 5 to 10) and more extensively in Oxford. We also need the infrastructure - schools, GP surgeries, sewers and transport - to support developments before they are occupied, as I discussed in another previous blog post