Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 12th February 2020

The UK has spent the last decade in a housing crisis. Since I became Leader of Crawley Borough Council in 2014, tackling this has been my top priority and we’ve made good progress: delivering hundreds of new affordable homes each year, while introducing the strongest local-connection requirements possible within current law.

Despite all the hard work, we remain thousands of affordable homes away from what Crawley residents need and all the while the Government has been introducing policies which have made it harder to get the job done.

From huge cuts to council revenue to changing ‘viability’ requirements to make it easier for developers to shirk their responsibilities to the community, the Government has made it clear how little they care about the crisis.

Nowhere is this more blatant than the changes to ‘permitted development rights’, the expansion of which has enabled building owners to produce poor quality housing while dodging any duty to deliver affordable housing or contribute to the infrastructure costs their development has created.

Crawley has suffered a blight of such properties under the current Government. If you’ve ever wandered through town and asked yourself ‘what idiot gave permission for that thing to be built,’ chances are no one did. That’s the thing about ‘permitted development’ rules, they allow people to make major changes to the town without going through the planning process, denying residents any say in the decision and allowing buildings to be built without meeting even basic requirements. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has found that only 30% of units built this way even meet national space standards.

The last three years alone, this ‘get out clause’ has enabled developers a chance to dodge planning rules which would have seen over 13,500 affordable homes built, denying so many families a place of their own.

For six years, Crawley Labour have been pushing for the Government to change these rules, which is why I am very happy to see Labour nationally announce plans to bring an end to the con and ensure that homes in Crawley are built to decent standards and affordable for local people again.

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