Response from Mr & Mrs Ian & Gail Swanson (Individual)
1. Mr & Mrs Ian & Gail Swanson (Individual) : 9 Jul 2008 11:10:00
To which part of the Report does your representation relate?
Paragraph or Section
3.69 - 3.78 PO4 - Balanced Housing Market - You Told us That & Introduction
Please write your comment or explain your reasons for supporting or opposing this part of the Report. You may also wish to refer to the tests of soundess in the glossary of the Preferred Options document before making your comments.
We recognise there will be a need for additional housing in the SLDC district over the period up to 2025 and that there is a particular difficulty with the provision of affordable homes for local people. We have direct experience of this, as parents of a large family. All our children now live away from the district. Our eldest son recently left to live elsewhere because as his family expanded he could not afford a larger house locally. He had only been able to buy his first home with help from us.
This leaching of the young from communities because homes are unaffordable is not unique to South Lakeland. It must be addressed with urgency and creativity by National, Regional, and Local Government. Without a solution the long-term outcome is the gradual withering of rural communities.
This migration of the young from rural towns and villages is more complex than just housing. Lack of suitable job opportunities draws the young away also, but particularly the more able. The less academic often wish to stay and find work locally. They provide valuable local services eg gardeners, window cleaners, shop workers, school assistants etc. They are essential to our rural communities and their children keep the schools alive, but the jobs are generally not highly paid. Thus we come back to the issue of affordable housing for local people.
We agree there is a need. We are not equipped to answer how many homes and where. However, we believe there are certain issues which should influence the Council’s decisions.
§ Homes should be built near to employment. Building homes far from workplaces is unwise. To combat global warming we are all trying (or should be) to reduce our travel and our carbon footprint.
§ Fuel costs are rising and are likely to remain high. Low paid workers should not have affordable homes built for them miles from where they are most likely to find work. This would merely wipe out the affordability of their homes with high travel-to-work costs.
§ There is a shortage of food worldwide. The price of basic foodstuffs is rocketing and expected to remain high. In a world short of food surely it is immoral to build on farmland. The right approach must surely be to increase the density of homes in towns and cities eg apartments at K Shoes factory in Kendal. This puts people near employment and does not, drip by drip, consume valuable food producing land.
Here we declare an interest. We live in Cartmel. You know, of course, this is a precious gem of a village – your council designated it a Conservation Village. By raising specific comments about Cartmel we do not suggest that there are not equally important issues to consider in Grange and Allithwaite.
So far your work on the LDF has concentrated on “directions of growth” and it is clearly important to establish these. However, we are concerned about the mechanistic method you are using to identify numbers of new homes. To summarise this is what it looks like from the public’s perspective. A government minister proposes (almost certainly for political advantaged) the building of 3 million new homes. Each layer of government then slices up its share of the 3 million figure until it comes down to SLDC as a target. SLDC slices up its own target and produces a figure of 505 new homes in the area covered by Grange, Allithwaite and Cartmel. This process bears no relation to the actual local need,. It is top-down not bottom-up and not based on demand.
It is sensible to identify in which direction settlements might grow if there is a need for such growth. What is not sensible is to consider the scale of growth (505 new homes) currently proposed. We estimate the total number of homes in Grange, Allithwaite and Cartmel to be between 1250 and 1500. An expansion of 505 extra produces growth of between 33% and 40%. Growth at half that level would swamp local services. And where is the employment for those who occupy the new affordable homes?
If the figures being banded about for Cartmel are anywhere near true (80-100 new homes) you are proposing any increase of 50% plus in the number of dwellings in this village. Any sensible person must see the folly in that.
Cartmel is a small village approached by narrow country lanes. There are no employers of any scale. Lack of parking and traffic in the narrow village streets are a problem. Much of the retail and hospitality trade relies on tourism expenditure to make it sustainable. The village centre is often congested with people shopping or using the pubs; nevertheless Cartmel’s attraction to tourists is precisely because it is small, beautiful, and still relatively quiet and unspoilt. Any large expansion of the village would destroy these characteristics. It is of a quality of built environment which should be strictly protected by the local planning authority not despoiled by it.
The fact that the Cartmel Peninsula is relatively quiet attracts people for retirement; people who do not have to travel to work. This trend produces a healthy natural turnover in homes within the non- affordable category and for that reason it would be hard to produce evidence of a shortage of housing, except in the affordable bracket. The mix of locals and retirees of young and old is good in Cartmel and the village is small enough for people to know each other. And tourism is enough to give the local economy a boost without totally swamping normal life, as has happened in many of the villages in Central Lakes. These factors contribute to Cartmel having a community that works. There are plenty of failing communities in Britain. There is no need to upset the balance here and spoil one that works. If it aint broke, don’t fix it.
On paper your selection of Cartmel as a “local service centre” might look right but in reality people travel outside the immediate locality for many services, even education. The Cartmel Peninsula feels like it has just about the right balance between population and services at present. No large scale increase in population could be absorbed without huge expenditure on roads, sewerage, schools, medical and other facilities. That expenditure would be pointless as there are few jobs to be found here. It is far more logical and cost effective to expand the population where the infrastructure and jobs already exist. In fact we cannot imagine voters supporting any councillors or political party who proposed such radical changes to the area.
We were both horrified to learn at the meeting that “local occupancy” covers Cumbria and North Lancashire. The housing problem is localised (ie village by village, town by town) People born in Cartmel who wish to live on in Cartmel as adults often cannot afford to do so. The current system is like trying to solve the shortage of affordable housing in Manchester for example by allowing people from Liverpool to occupy the new affordable homes. Local should mean local not regional. The current approach compounds and perpetuates the problem.
§ Do not plan homes where there are no jobs.
§ Do not plan homes where there is limited infrastructure.
§ Have a sense of proportion. Protect what is special. (Over the period to 2025 Cartmel could cope with say another 10 – 12 homes.)
§ Make sure affordable homes are truly affordable and remain affordable in perpetuity, or you keep having to solve the same problem.
§ Make local mean local and remain ”local occupancy only” to ensure their availability for future generations too. So change local to be local.
§ Avoid building on farmland. The world needs food.
§ Be aware that areas with high retirement populations do not attract employers and the housing market has a significant turnover of homes.
§ Do not plan more houses just because people in Westminster decide you should. Be a proper local government.