Housing and politics in focus

SIR - If you like the status quo in Sidmouth, respond to the survey from East Devon District Council.

Councillors Claire Wright and Roger Giles are right to warn us of the dangers of urban sprawl.

Drive around the Reading and Swindon areas and you get an idea of what the planners could have in store for us. Mr Crouch and others have pointed out the lack of infrastructure and narrow roads. The planning system is hugely weighted towards big applicants for planning permission and against objectors.

If the local planning authority refuses permission, however sound the reasons, the applicants have an automatic right of appeal. Objectors, neighbours, have no right of appeal. Appeals are expensive.

Tesco, for example, with its well-paid lawyers, are ready to chuck mega money at these appeals. Local authorities, squeezed on budgets, cannot afford to fight the lawyers. Applicants renew and withdraw planning applications and wait for the right moment to strike. By caving in, the local council keeps the local economy moving, albeit on an outdated mega-corporate model. The market is fake and contrived.

We have planning based on 1940s demand. Mega builders hoard land around the towns of southern England. The situation is exacerbated by flooding the market with demand from demographics, from one parent families, longer life spans and millions of immigrants. This market speculation is enhanced by greed-driven lenders, mini and maxi speculators.

End the tax breaks given to ‘buy to lets’ reverse the CGT cut and align it with income tax to reduce the incentive to move from honest work to property speculation.

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Knight Frank & Rutley inform us that demand for second homes is rising. If the new houses are built, they will not be bought by local people on Sidmouth wages. It is estimated that for every 10% the minimum wage rises, the State saves between �560M and �680M in credits and benefits. With the minimum wage of just under �6 per hour, the taxpayer is subsidising employers who pay non-survivable wages.

As has been pointed out, “affordable” housing is a political invention. If it is subsidised housing, the subsidy is provided by the owner of the land, the builder and the taxpayer. If none of this group can afford the subsidy, it doesn’t get built. EDDC inform us that they are planning for modest employment and housing growth to meet local needs.

If politicians want the votes of first-time buyers, stop mouthing about one off “affordable” homes and support policies to restore the proper economic link between rates of pay and house prices.

I read an article in a national newspaper that a developer had applied to knock down the local market in Greenwich in the heart of the world heritage site. As the article points out, present procedures simply increase everyone’s cynicism and cause more people to regard the law as an alien to be regarded with contempt and ridicule.

We are told we cannot stand still and we are all in it together.

M J Steward

via email