Campaign group hits back at former Saffron Walden MP’s lament at ‘nimbyism’

PUBLISHED: 08:10 17 August 2018 | UPDATED: 08:15 17 August 2018

Lord Alan Haselhurst. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

Lord Alan Haselhurst. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

Saffron Photo 2017

‘Nimbys’ are telling the ‘haves’ to ignore the ‘have nots’, the former MP for Saffron Walden, Lord Alan Haselhurst, has said.

The former MP, who held the position for 40 years, says more homes need to be built but ‘nimbys’ are “never satisfied” with the plan to meet housing need and “no positive alternative is ever articulated”.

“The UK’s population has increased and become more mobile,” he said. “Rising standards require that old, unfit properties must be replaced.

“Relative ease of credit over several decades fuelled the aspirations of many to have a roof over their heads – their own. For all these reasons one might suppose that the pace of putting brick on brick would not have slackened. But it has. Dramatically. And that is why political parties have now re-entered an auction to bid up their new homes targets.

“Only this time it is not to a chorus of public approval. Quite the contrary. ‘No new homes here’ has become one of the commonest signs on the landscape.

“If the demand for housing – whether owned or rented – is rising while the volume of new-build is not keeping pace, there is an obvious consequence.

“For this depressing scenario to be dispelled the housing supply simply has to increase. National political leaders recognise this, but their exhortation often falls locally on deaf ears.

“More usually, the critics will accept that more homes, albeit less than any current number being proposed, do have to be built, but, you see, not on this site or in this village or in that part of town.

“It is remarkable how often these sentiments are expressed on doorsteps that had not existed five years previously.

“Sometimes the objectors to ‘scheme X’ are able to point to the outstanding merits of ‘scheme Y’ or ‘scheme Z’ that happen to be 10 miles to the north, east, south or west. Be it noted that such helpful alternative proposals do not usually come from the mouths of people who themselves are standing for local office.

“Is it surprising that young adults look to the future in despair when they see no prospect of settling down in the area of their birth and having a job that comes anyway near funding their accommodation costs? All they hear on this subject comes from the pedlars of ‘nimbyism’ inciting the ‘haves’ to ignore the ‘have nots’. No plan to meet housing need, however exhaustingly discussed, ever satisfies them. No positive alternative is ever articulated.”

Responding to Lord Haselhurst, Richard Pavitt, from StopNUtown Action Group, which is currently opposing plans for 5,000 houses near Great Chesterford, said: “It is rather sad to see someone of Lord Haselhurst’s standing rolled out to defend Uttlesford District Council and its proposed 5,000-house new town on the Essex/Cambs border.

“Is this the same (then Sir Alan) who in 2008 opposed the building of 8,000 houses a matter of 1.5 miles away from the proposed new site? 8,000 houses that would have made a substantial contribution to the housing need that Lord Haselhurst so loudly proclaims – a need that was just as evident then as it is now but hadn’t been encapsulated in a political soundbite.

“Building new houses is vitally important but not in the wrong place at any cost and certainly not as a political expedient that will leave future generations to clear up the mess.

“It is cruel and cynical to suggest that a dysfunctional scheme to build a new town in north Uttlesford will provide young adults with an opportunity to settle down in the area of their birth – as claimed by Lord Haselhurst. It almost certainly won’t unless they are very well heeled. The problems with the site will mean a predominance of market-rate housing to pay for the high cost of fixing the problems.

“A new town in this location is opposed by numerous bodies and authorities far more important and influential than this action group. Of course those organisations don’t live in the area so cannot be conveniently dismissed by Lord Haselhurst as ‘nimbys’.”

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