Housing is absolutely critical to the growth of this country and construction serves as the backbone, contributing almost 10% of the GDP. I support the work of groups like www.getbritainbuilding.co.uk who highlight the benefits to housing, jobs, skills and growth that construction brings. We need more housing. How my kids will afford a place when they grow up is beyond me.
However careful consideration needs to be given to where this building takes place. We can’t run roughshod over long established planning regulations and protocols. Greenfield building isn’t the way forward – our countryside is our heritage and our children’s inheritance.
What is key is that building houses needs to be properly supported with the appropriate infrastructure around it including roads, drainage, schools and doctors’ surgeries. And it needs to be distributed fairly both in terms of where is it built and who can buy it. This needs to be a fundamental principle.
I’m concerned about a number of the decisions that have been made in Kent around where housing should be built. At the moment there are proposals to build over 1,000 homes in Paddock Wood with little improvement to the infrastructure. In advance of that Southern Water have admitted that, as it stands, one of the pumping stations is at maximum capacity and maintenance issues with it have resulted in sewage water flooding. This has not been helped by combined drainage where surface water and foul water share the same drain. Just before last Christmas, the primary school was forced to close as a result of surface water flooding.
The proposals by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to have 1,000 new homes built there, some of which are on a flood plain, without any 'real' improvement to the overall infrastructure will seriously exasperate the problem.
Regrettably this clumsy and ill-thought out approach to a serious problem which needs to be addressed is not unique to Paddock Wood.
We need more housing but let’s be fair about where we put it, how much we put there and how we support it.