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News - 10 May 2007
The site for the UK's first Eco-Town

Affordable (Eco)homes at centre of Brown agenda

Nearly three quarters of couples in their 30s cannot afford to buy their first home which has pushed housing up the government agenda making tackling spiralling property prices a priority. The problem is particularly acute in Brighton & Hove.

A major new building programme concentrating on affordable homes is widely expected to be a centre-piece for Gordon Brown when he takes over as Prime Minister.

The Treasury is currently looking at a range of measures to increase the inadequate supply of houses including speeding up the planning process, easier release of land and easier access to shared ownership schemes.

The government has also appointed John Calcutt - formerly the Chair of English Partnerships – to review UK housing.

The twist in the tail of this new housing strategy is that it will include 5 new Eco-Towns capable of providing homes for up to 100,000 people. The towns are expected to powered by solar panels and wind turbines and include waste-water recycling and other trappings of low environmental impact living.

The first such town is expected to be built in the south east at the 228 hectare Oakington Barracks 7 miles from Cambridge, currently being used as a temporary immigration reception centre and owned by English Partnerships (EP).

Oakington Barrack site

These developments are expected to offer the usual mix of private and affordable housing although the exact proportions are unclear. They will all be built on brownfield sites to add to their environmentally sustainable cachet.

ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP COMMENT

The rise of affordable housing up the political agenda at Westminster is to be welcomed in a city that has recognised its importance for well over a decade. The provision of affordable housing in a city like Brighton & Hove where the salary required for a first time buyer’s flat is a staggering £49,000 is one of the major challenges facing our future prosperity.

The number of solo households in the UK has increased dramatically in the last decade and is predicted to rise even further leading to a demand for 220,000 new homes per annum – well above the 180,000 built last year.

Latest projections show that households will grow by 209,000 per annum up to 2026 and nearly 150,500 will be needed for people living alone.

In Brighton & Hove although we have a good record of building new homes, easily meeting government targets, we need to build 2,520 affordable houses each year to keep up with demand but we fall short of this figure by just over 1,200 units every year. Figures up to 2011 suggest the city will be short of over 7,200 affordable homes.

An ideal site for one of Brown’s new Eco Towns would be Shoreham Harbour, which would have the added advantage of being close to somewhere that people actually want to live.

Oakington Barracks is a desolate site near Longstanton and although Cambridge is only 7 miles away, it can hardly be said to have a  cultural, retail and leisure offer on its doorstep like Shoreham Port.

Although the regional development agency SEEDA is working with the Port Authority to bring about the regeneration of the site, it is mired in difficulties including ownership of the land (Shoreham Harbour is a Trust Port) and road access. Sadly for a city that already has an enviable reputation for ecological endeavour, Shoreham is unlikely to ever become one of the Chancellor/Prime Minister’s new Eco-Towns.

 


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