Talking politics: housing is our highest priority

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Mansfield’s Labour leader Coun Martin Lee on why the need for new houses in the area is the biggest issue facing local communities...

Officers at the Council have been working very hard over many months to find the best way forward to see housing development in our district.

I have explained many times in this column how I see house building as the highest priority for both central and local government.

We need homes for a growing and ageing population.

We need local construction firms and suppliers with full order books creating jobs for local people. We need apprentices learning new skills leading to careers in the industry.

The Council does not have huge reserves of money to invest straightaway in seeing the sort of numbers of housing starts that are required to meet demand.

What we do have is a lot of land ready for development, for example at Brownlow Road, Flint Avenue, the old general hospital site and Victoria Court to name a few.

The trick is to find a way of starting construction on these sites using what limited resources we have and then re-invest money generated to develop further sites.

This will not mean borrowing large sums of money to build council housing in the traditional way.

The solution that Council officers have come up with, and which Labour fully supports, is the creation of a housing company, separate from the Council but wholly owned by it.

The Council will commit some money to set this project up and then transfer the housing sites to the company who will proceed to develop the land both for houses to sell and to rent.

The profits from the house sales and the rent generated will be used to develop other sites.

This approach, using the Council assets of available land, is an answer to bringing much needed construction forward at a time of financial restraint.

It is disappointing that the Mayor and his Cabinet have delayed in making the necessary decision to put the officers’ plans into action but I am hopeful that the Council will pass, with some small amendments, the proposal at its meeting in June that will make this happen.

We can then build for the future and put the years of inaction behind us.

I spent a great night at the John Fretwell Centre last week at a charity event to raise funds for the Fountaindale School organised by the very successful Mansfield company Hall Fast Industrial Supplies Ltd. Fountaindale School do fantastic work educating children with profound physical disabilities.

The school strives to develop the kids so they can be valuable and valued members of their communities.

The terrific money raising efforts of the Hall Fast team make a great contribution to the work of the school.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is housing the key local issue? How do we pay to build more of them?

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