In most parts of the UK we need to build more houses so that young people have the same chance of owning their own home as those of us who are over the age of 40.
I have consistently made this argument as Grantham’s MP. As planning minister in the government, I pushed through reforms that led to a big rise in the number of proposals for new housing that received planning permission. So the nation’s house-builders have good reason to think that I am on their side. But in the last few months I have come across two examples of shoddy workmanship and sharp practice by house-builders which make me very angry indeed.
During the summer, a group of residents invited me to visit the Hunter’s Gate development, off Springfield Road. I was shocked by what they showed me: bricks and driveways were splattered with dried mortar, dangerous holes were left in gardens, manhole covers had been turfed over and both roads and pavements left with dangerously uneven levels. I wrote to the chief executive of Persimmon to demand a meeting on site and was fobbed off with a wholly unsatisfactory reply until I wrote to the company’s chairman.
Two weeks ago I learned of another example of outrageous behaviour by a local house-builder, Larkfleet Homes. An earlier application by Larkfleet Homes for a housing development next to the Manthorpe estate was rejected by the local planning committee and government planning inspectors. They have recently published details of a new scheme on the same site, as is their right.
What is not right, and not acceptable, is for them to start cutting down trees on the site long before they even submitted a formal planning application, let alone received permission to develop it. I am delighted that the council was alerted to this by local councillor Ray Wootten and that SKDC has now imposed a Tree Preservation Order.
Forty years ago, Edward Heath referred to the behaviour of a company called Lonrho as the “unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism”. I find it unbelievably depressing that two British house-builders working in Grantham should remind me of that moment today.
If the house-building industry want to persuade the British people of the need to build more houses, they need to work with local communities, they need to design beautiful places that respect the local environment, and they need to build houses to a high quality which will stand the test of time. If they don’t, I cannot and will not defend them.