Lake District Housing Needs Special Treatment
Proposals to make it easier for social housing tenants to buy their properties should not be introduced in places like the Lake District a group of Cumbrian housing and planning officials told a Government representative on a fact-finding mission to the county.
Representatives from the Cumbria Housing Group urged the Government to make a special case for the county and both consider additional planning conditions to prevent existing housing stock being sold, while at the same time making it easier to bring more properties within local people's budgets.
Susanna McGibbon, the Director of Legal Services at the Department of Communities and Local Government, heard that in parts of the central Lake District average house prices were more than 14 times average salaries – way above national averages. And in Keswick 71 extra households currently need affordable housing in the form of three-bed properties, but last year only nine properties were vacated to come back onto the market.
The Cumbria Housing Group is a partnership of organisations working together to improve housing and housing related services in Cumbria. The group includes local councils, Cumbria County Council, private sector developers, registered housing providers and the Lake District National Park Authority.
Councillor Peter Thornton, Leader of South Lakeland District Council, and Chair of Cumbria Housing Executive Group said the original right-to-buy scheme removed the majority of the council's social housing and current suggestions to increase purchasing discounts could further reduce precious housing stock.
“The majority of our local residents can't afford to purchase open market housing in the Lake District and our social housing stock gives their only opportunity to live and to work in the area in which they were born. We need to look again at whether this right-to-buy policy is the right one for our national parks,” he suggested.
LDNPA Director of Planning and Partnerships Steve Ratcliffe said one of the group's key objectives was to make Government aware that the national park needed to sustain a balanced housing market which delivers a variety of housing types, tenures, and size both now and in the future.
“We see social rented housing as a very necessary and feasible element of the market. We need to keep hold of these properties for the purpose they were originally intended because it is extremely unlikely we will be able to replace any lost through right-to-buy on a like for like basis,” he added.