COVENTRY City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing is calling for ‘an honest and open discussion’ on the city’s ‘housing crisis’ with 14,000 people currently on the waiting list.
Coun David Welsh responded to last week’s Observer story on a new government watchdog report over alleged ‘inconsistent’ ONS figures for smaller cities like Coventry with a large student population.
He said: “There has been a call for a pause on developments on the green belt in Coventry, but the ONS are to report back to the watchdog’s report in July.
“Clearly there is still work to be done and the outcome is still to be resolved.
“I feel we need to change the conversation and have an honest and open discussion on housing.
“I am doing a lot of work on housing needs in the city. I want to focus on delivering more social housing, offer more housing for first-time buyers that is actually affordable and we have an ageing population with additional housing needs.
“The government is not addressing these issues.
“How are we going to deliver this? There’s a real housing crisis in the UK and we are seeing this in Coventry.
“We have 14,000 people on the Housing Register with varying degrees of need.”
Last autumn Coun Welsh stopped short of an immediate Local Plan review in response to a 6,500-signature petition to save Coventry’s former green belt from housing developments led by the newly re-elected Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, and Coun Gary Ridley.
He said: “I did make the commitment when I considered to an immediate Local Plan review if the government reduced housing numbers but then we had a U-turn from the government with the number of houses being built in Coventry rising from 1,200 to 2,300 homes a year.
“The Conservative manifesto commitment is to build 300,000 new homes a year, this has been reaffirmed the Queen’s Speech paving way for developments to double in the city. Basically, it’s giving a green light to developers and cut out local councils and concerns by local people. I am really concerned about it.”
Speaking last October following the announcement, Coun Welsh said: “If this new figure is forced upon us, it means our options are to look for denser housing developments or look to release additional green belt – options we do not want to do.”
He now accuses Andy Street and the local Conservatives of using “gesture politics”.
Coun Welsh said: “Andy Street and the local Conservatives campaigned for planning applications on former green belt land in Eastern Green and Keresley to be ‘called in’ by the Secretary of State for Housing.
“Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, has the power to take over (‘call in’) planning applications rather than letting the local authority decide.
“Two days ago, we had a letter from the government saying they have refused to stop these developments from going-ahead.
“I see it that Andy Street and the Coventry Conservatives are using gesture politics, as they know the government’s trajectory is to build more houses.
“Coun Gary Ridley keeps calling for a ‘brownfield-first’ policy, but we are running out of brownfield sites and there is still a need for a mix of housing in the city.
“We initially put forward a ‘brownfield -first’ policy for the Local Plan but the government’s own inspector said that would make the plan unsound.”
We contacted Andy Street and the Coventry Conservatives.
In response, Coun Ridley said: “At the recent local elections, voters near the greenbelt resoundingly rejected Labour’s Local Plan.
“They recognised that only Conservative Councillors have consistently voted against green belt development which has been enthusiastically embraced by Labour councillors as part of their plan to make Coventry a ‘top ten city’.
“The message from these elections was clear – Labour face disaster in a number of wards if they don’t change course – even the once ‘safe’ Labour seat of Holbrook now looks vulnerable.
“We must review the Local Plan to ensure we do more to develop brownfield sites, bring empty homes back into use and tackle the enormous growth in student properties which is taking family accommodation out of circulation.
“In short, we need a local plan for local people, not a developer’s charter.”
- What do you think about the city’s housing supply, applications being submitted and development in Coventry? What do you think the council should do to address the shortfall? Send us your views to firstname.lastname@example.org