Labour has written to the Secretary of State for Local Government, Sajid Javid MP, following news that he intends to intervene in the preparation of York’s Local Plan.
News of the planned intervention emerged last week after Mr Javid concluded that in seeking to address the national housing crisis, he had had enough of waiting for councils like York to submit a Local Plan.
Previous indications from his department suggested the Government would accept a six month delay to submission beyond the original Spring 2017 deadline, to November 2017. The council remains several months away from submission.
Now Labour’s housing spokesperson and Group Leader, Councillors Fiona Derbyshire and Janet Looker, have written to Mr Javid to request talks over how a sound Local Plan can be submitted without the need for intervention.
Councillor Derbyshire said:
“There are two main objectives we are seeking through talks with DCLG officials. The first is conveying the weaknesses within the current Plan, such as inadequate housing numbers. The second is averting Government intervention. If Mr Javid can impress on his party running the council that housing numbers need to change, we may have a chance of getting a Local Plan with cross party approval that avoids the ignominy of Government coming in to draw it up for us”.
Mr Javid said last week that young people are being prevented from being able to access affordable housing, and that the stalling of Local Plans was one obstacle to delivering the housing communities need.
A further obstacle to seeing a York Local Plan approved, Councillor Derbyshire states in her letter, is the council’s Coalition disregarding independent recommendations about how much housing York requires. In addition to this, the Government has recently indicated that York’s housing requirement could be 200 new homes more each year than York’s Coalition is planning for.
“There is a distinct lack of realism and leadership within the current council administration on the Local Plan”, said Labour Group Leader, Councillor Janet Looker, who has co-signed the letter. “We perfectly understand why the Coalition don’t want more housing but leadership is about taking tough decisions. It will make no difference to the public to know this administration sought to block new housing, only to have it imposed by the Government either before or after the Plan is submitted”.
Both councillors said they welcomed Sajid Javid’s comments around needing to deliver more affordable housing, which they said showed the influence Labour is having nationally on housing policy as more and more people get priced out of being able to afford their own home.
Their letter to the Secretary of State also highlights the need to ensure balance in the Local Plan so that green spaces in city centre wards are protected, while equal weight is given to quality of place for residents living both in central and outer wards in the city.
The full text of the letter is available here.