Home groan is familiar

THE Eastern Region got another bombshell from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) last week. It was told the latest estimate of how many houses required for this region had increased by 100,000. The Government s original figure was around 478,0

THE Eastern Region got another bombshell from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) last week. It was told the latest estimate of how many houses required for this region had increased by 100,000.

The Government's original figure was around 478,000 extra houses. With some difficulty, and with some of the region's local authorities not wanting to accept a figure that high, we came up with plans to accommodate that number. But there was a proviso that such growth would need a massive injection of funding for roads, water, utilities, schools, and hospitals.

The Government promptly asked us to consider taking an additional 18,000 on top of the 478,000. We refused.

Then we presented the Government with the bill for the infrastructure support required. No gold plating - just the very barest minimum - and it came to something like £1.6 billion.


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The Government awarded us roughly 20 per cent of that amount and the Voluntary Regional Assembly promptly suspended its support for the plan until the Government showed more commitment to infrastructure funding. That was where things stood last week, with the examination in public of the plan still in progress.

Throwing another 100,000 at us represents what the Americans call a 'lack of situational awareness' as the various Government departments fail to communicate with each other. Let us call that The Cock-up Theory. Alternatively, it could represent absolute contempt for the views of local people.

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The latest numbers are not sustainable. Until now, we have been working on putting the houses where jobs existed or could be created. Now it appears that this idea is passé.

If you just want to put houses up without worrying about local jobs or infrastructure funding, you are building dormitory towns for London. I, for one, do not want Cambridgeshire to become something like that, and I will fight it hard and vociferously.

It all does very little for the credibility of the platitudes we keep hearing about devolving power downwards from Whitehall towards local decision making bodies. As the 'Bigger is Better' idea is being pushed hard for NHS bodies, the Police and possibly local government, remember how little our local voices were heeded over housing growth. We should all assume that they would be equally inaudible in those other areas.

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