Category Archives: Housing

MP launches petition to save Maidstone barracks

Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant is launching a petition opposing the closure of Invicta Park Barracks.

Campaigners with Helen Grant at the Invicta Park Barracks – December 2016
Campaigners with Helen Grant at the Invicta Park Barracks – December 2016

The petition calls on the Ministry of Defence to reconsider this decision in light of the negative impact upon some 800 service personnel and their families as well as our County town both economically and socially, and through loss of the army’s longstanding civil community support.

Helen said, ‘From all of the soundings I have taken so far I know that many local people are concerned about the decision to close Invicta Park Barracks, breaking centuries of military tradition in Maidstone. There is also great affection for the town’s vibrant Nepalese community and local people are wanting to show their support for them. I feel duty bound to launch this petition and provide an official platform for people to voice their opposition. I am also sending a survey to around 10,000 randomly selected addresses in the central Maidstone area to allow people to share their views about the proposed closure of Invicta Park Barracks. The survey can be downloaded here http://bit.ly/2kjPxSI and I encourage anyone and everyone to take part.’

The petition is available online at: www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-maidstone-barracks. Petition forms are also available at Helen Grant’s constituency office on the London-bound forecourt of Maidstone East railway station. The petition will be handed in to the Ministry of Defence before Easter this year.

Leader of the Maidstone Nepalese community Mr Dhan Chand issued the following statement;

‘We all feel that that this decision will have a devastating impact on our community. We have always been encouraged to take a long term view and create a permanent home here and we have worked so hard for many years to become an integral part of the Maidstone community.

We hope that people from across the borough will use Helen’s petition and survey to voice their opposition to the barracks closure and help us to keep Maidstone as our home.’

Lt Col J B Awford (ret), former Commanding Officer of Invicta Park Barracks, said;

‘I believe the decision to close Invicta Park Barracks is unsound. It will be a negative step for the army, for Maidstone and, no doubt, for the established Nepalese community.’

 

·       The proposed closure of Invicta Park Barracks was announced in November 2016 as part of the Government’s ‘A Better Defence Estate Strategy.’

·       It is one of 91 proposed closures to military bases across the UK.

·       Further information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/better-defence-estate-strategy

·       Helen’s survey download is here: http://bit.ly/2kjPxSI

·       The online petition is here: www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-maidstone-barracks

Highest increase in affordable housebuilding for 22 years

The latest figures show 66,640 new affordable homes were delivered in the last year

The numbers of affordable homes are growing at their fastest rate since 1993, new figures (dated 2 December 2015) show.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said this was further proof of the government’s commitment to get more homes built.

The latest figures show 66,640 new affordable homes were delivered in the last year – 55% higher than the previous year.

It meant the numbers of social and affordable rented homes increased by nearly two-thirds, and the number of affordable homes to buy rose by 41% over the same time period.

Greg Clark MP
Greg Clark MP

Communities Secretary, Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, told MWCA: “Today’s figures show how far we’ve come to get the country building, bringing the industry back from the brink to deliver the highest annual increase in affordable housebuilding for over 2 decades.

“But we are far from complacent and the doubling of government investment in housebuilding announced at the recent Spending Review reaffirms our commitment to deliver a million new homes by 2020.

Affordable homes to rent and buy are a key part of that, helping to give young people and families across the country the best possible start in life.”

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis added: “Our housebuilding efforts are paying off and can be seen by this considerable increase in the number of affordable homes built in just one year. This is real progress but there is more to do. That’s why we are going further and increasing our investment in these homes to ensure many more hard-working people can benefit.

Building more affordable homes

Housebuilding is a key part of the government’s long-term economic plan.

Today’s figures mean that over 270,000 new affordable homes have been delivered since 2010.

At the Spending Review last week, the government announced plans to double investment in housebuilding to £8 billion, to help towards delivering one million homes by 2020 – and to deliver the largest affordable housebuilding programme since the 1970s.

This includes:

  • delivering 135,000 new homes to buy through a new Help to Buy: Shared Ownership scheme
  • a new London Help to Buy, to help aspiring homeowners in the capital to buy with a fraction of the deposit they would normally require
  • plans to deliver 200,000 new Starter Homes, which will be available at a 20% discount to young first time buyers

This is on top of measures included in the Housing and Planning Bill currently going through Parliament, including:

  • ensuring new Starter Homes are included on all reasonably sized development sites
  • giving communities the power to grant permission in principle on sites identified in local plans and on brownfield registers, to speed up the planning system while at the same time protecting the green belt
  • planning reforms to support small builders, with a requirement for councils to offer shovel-ready sites for custom-build homes

New funding to crack down on rogue landlords and tackle ‘beds in sheds’

Elephant and Castle skylineNew funding will help up to 65 councils tackle rogue landlords who let out substandard homes and make tenants’ lives a misery, fellow Kent MP (and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) Greg Clark has announced.

The worst affected councils which have a large proportion of private rented stock in their areas and significant problems will be able to bid for a share of the fund to tackle irresponsible landlords who provide unsafe living conditions, exploit innocent tenants and blight communities.

The fund will also target ‘beds in sheds’ which are often rented to vulnerable migrants by ruthless landlords who charge them extortionate rents to live in cramped conditions.

Councils can use the money to:

  • increase inspections of property
  • carry out more raids
  • initiate more enforcement action and prosecutions
  • demolish sheds and buildings that are prohibited
Greg Clark MP
Greg Clark MP

Greg Clark, who is MP for our sister association at Tunbridge Wells, told MWCA: “We’re determined to keep the country building and increase the supply of good quality homes that families want, both to buy and for rent. Key to this is rooting out the minority of landlords in the private rented sector that let out poorly-maintained and unsafe properties to vulnerable tenants, making their lives a misery.

“Council-led efforts mean more than 3,000 landlords have faced enforcement action and even prosecution in the last 2 years – today’s £5 million funding, combined with the extra powers we’re bringing forward, will help them go even further.”

There are more than 4.4 million households renting privately. Since 2013 nearly 40,000 inspections have taken place in properties, with more than 3,000 landlords now facing further enforcement action or prosecution.

The measures will not hamper the vast majority of landlords who are diligent and responsible. They avoid strangling the industry in red tape which would deter investment, increase rent and reduce choice for tenants.

Additional measures being taken forward in the Housing and Planning Bill reinforce this crackdown on unscrupulous landlords and letting agents, including:

  • seeking banning orders for the most prolific and serious offenders
  • issuing penalty notices of up to £5,000 for breaches
  • a new process for abandoned tenancies, which would allow a landlord to recover the home without the need to go to court
  • creating a database of rogue landlords and letting agents
  • applying a more stringent ‘fit and proper’ person test for landlords to help ensure that they have the skills to manage properties and a contact readily available to tenants
  • extending Rent Repayment Orders to cover situations where a tenant has been illegally evicted or the landlord has failed to rectify a serious health and safety hazard in the property, and allowing local authorities to retain that money for housing purposes where the rent was paid through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit

Helping First Time Buyers get their own home

People power - Vote ConservativeIn just one month over 50,000 first-time buyers have signed up to our the Government’s new Starter Home scheme – each one moving a step closer to owning their own home.

Starter Homes are part of our plan to get Britain building again and help people get on in life. Under the scheme a Conservative government will build 200,000 homes for first-time buyers under 40 – giving them the opportunity to buy a new home at 20% below the normal price.

And with Help to Buy, our policy to bring down the cost of a deposit, we’ve helped more than 88,000 families buy their own home – the vast majority first-time buyers.

Home ownership helps people stand on their own two feet and is one of the clearest symbols of a country that rewards hard work. That’s why it goes to the heart of our values and our long-term economic plan – and why we’re committed to helping people own their own home.

Campaigners win another battle in the fight to save Fant Farm from housing

Following a huge effort from local people working together with their MP and Ward Councillors, the Cabinet of Maidstone Borough Council removed Fant Farm from the local plan last week.

Helen Grant MP with Fant Ward Councillors Stephen Paine and Alistair Black supporting local campaigners at Fant Farm last weekend
Helen Grant MP with Fant Ward Councillors Stephen Paine and Alistair Black supporting local campaigners at Fant Farm last weekend

Hundreds of emails were sent to Officers and Planning Committee members from residents objecting to the land being included for housing development consideration.  Helen Grant also undertook a survey of over 3000 households which showed a massive 96% of respondents were unhappy about the prospect of development at Fant Farm.

The Survey also found 61% were worried about increased traffic congestion, 51% were concerned about the lack of infrastructure to support more housing and 54% expressed concerns over the effect on wildlife and agriculture.

Writing to the Council, and to prospective developers Gleeson Homes, Mrs Grant said:

‘Since I was selected to stand for Parliament here in 2008, and as the MP for Maidstone & the Weald since 2010, I have become very familiar with Fant Ward, the issues it faces and the needs of its residents. Fant Farm in particular has always been a special place at the heart of this community and I understand and fully support the concerns my constituents have raised’.

Helen Grant MP joins residents to oppose further developments on Greenfield sites in Barming

Helen Grant, Member of Parliament for Maidstone and the Weald, met with local residents in Barming recently after being contacted regarding concerns for the beautiful area of Barming.

Helen Grant with Barming Greenfield Group at proposed site
Helen Grant with Barming Greenfield Group at proposed site

The Barming Greenfields Group contacted Helen to express their concern for a Greenfield site on Bell Farm, North Street where a proposed housing development by Taylor Wimpey has been submitted.  Local concerns are not only for this application but for the rural community as a whole, with the ever growing ‘urban creep’ threatening the countryside and local wildlife.

Local Residents in the area say:

“The countryside here has always been good agricultural land and an important habitat for wildlife. But it is also part of the character of Barming and helps us maintain our identity – we’re not just another bit of Maidstone town” (Helen Burn)

“The traffic is really bad everywhere you go in Maidstone and more and more houses will make it worse. No one seems to take this into account. Our Barming roads certainly can’t cope with any more.” (Sally Pettingell)

“Maidstone Borough Council has a staggering 769 long term empty properties. Surely this would negate the need for the proposed development”  (Jo Wood)

Barming protest 4 15-01-15

The MP for Maidstone and the Weald furthered her own concerns saying:

Helen Grant MP
Helen Grant MP

“As I have said before, I fully recognise the need for new housing in Kent, but we need the right numbers, in the right locations and only with the right infrastructure in place. Having listened to my constituents and having visited the proposed site I will be writing to the Head of Planning at Maidstone Borough Council and Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to oppose the proposed development”

Fant Farm campaigners celebrate first hurdle success

Helen Grant MP reveals results of survey to over 3300 local residents

Helen Grant MP today convened a second meeting with Fant Residents Action Group who are fighting to prevent housing development on much enjoyed green field land known as Fant Farm in Maidstone.

There was good news arising from a meeting of the Council’s Planning, Transport and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday 20th January.   The cross party Committee agreed to recommend to the Council’s Cabinet that Fant Farm should not be allocated for housing for a range of reasons including; adverse impact on the countryside, loss of agricultural land, and serious traffic issues.

Helen said “Campaigners were delighted to be working together in a non-political action group to help the Council oppose the developers in this application.  We will be using a survey I conducted across 3000 homes in the Fant area in December 2014 to support the resident’s objections.  We hope that this will help persuade the Maidstone Borough Council Cabinet Members to support the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s recommendation and reject the application when they meet this week”.

The main outcomes of Helen Grant’s survey were;

·        96% of respondents were unhappy about the prospect of development at Fant Farm.

·        61% expressed worries about increased traffic congestion

·        54% expressed concerns over the effect on wildlife and agriculture

·        51% are concerned about the lack of infrastructure to support more housing.

Campaigners meeting at Helen Grant’s office on Maidstone East station forecourt
Campaigners meeting at Helen Grant’s office on Maidstone East station forecourt

MP backs residents in opposing Cripple Street & Postley Road Developments

Helen Grant to write to Chief Executive and Head of Planning at Maidstone Borough Council to strongly oppose plans

Helen Grant, Member of Parliament for Maidstone and the Weald, is supporting residents in opposing two proposed housing developments in the Loose area.

Helen was joined by local residents as well as representatives of the North Loose Residents’ Association and the Valley Conservation Society to view the Greenfield sites.

Helen Grant with councillors, residents, members of the North Loose Residents’ Association and the Valley Conservation Society at Cripple Street
Helen Grant with councillors, residents, members of the North Loose Residents’ Association and the Valley Conservation Society at Cripple Street

The beautiful green fields, which are located off Cripple Street and Postley Road, are a habitat to wildlife and are cherished by locals who regularly use their footpaths.  To add to this, Mrs Grant is fearful of the impact further housing would have on existing traffic congestion and further pressure on local infrastructure.

The MP for Maidstone and the Weald recently conducted an Outreach Survey of over one thousand residents in the most affected areas – with the majority of respondents against further building in the area.

Helen will be writing to the Chief Executive and Head of Planning at Maidstone Borough Council to strongly oppose the new developments.

Helen said: “As the local MP I have been contacted by a number of constituents about the Cripple Street and Postley Road developments.

“I felt it necessary to gain a wider view of residents and my community outreach survey revealed overwhelming public concern about the developments.

“As I have said, I fully recognise the need for new housing in Kent, but we need the right numbers, in the right locations and only with the right infrastructure in place.

“These new developments do not meet these criteria and I will be strongly opposing the plans”

Conservative councils win funding to help rough sleepers

Three Conservative authorities in Kent have been awarded a quarter of a million pounds to help homeless people to turn their lives around. Maidstone Borough Council, Canterbury City Council and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council joined forces to bid for the money to help those in the most serious need.

100 rough sleepers across the three areas will be identified, and work will be carried out to make sure that they have a personally designed “pathway” to move from being street homeless to accessing and maintaining the most suitable accommodation for their needs. The  funding will make sure that access is available to housing advice, dentistry and GP services, mental health provision, help with drug and alcohol issues, food, washing facilities, translation services and a safe base.

Cllr Marion Ring
Cllr Marion Ring

Councillor Marion Ring, Maidstone council’s Cabinet Member for the Environment and Housing, said: “This money will help to provide extra services and outreach work to help people work through issues that might have led to their becoming, or staying, homeless. In the end, we’d like to see all of those helped through the programme back in decent accommodation.”

Canterbury City Council’s Executive member for Housing, Councillor Joe Howes, also welcomed the funding: “By providing personalised pathways, we can make sure that people are getting the best possible support for their individual needs to give them the best chance at improving their lives.”

Councillor Lynne Weatherly, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Communities and Wellbeing at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, said: “I am pleased that the three councils have been successful in the joint bid we submitted for the Single Homelessness Fund. The money will be put to good use to continue the excellent work that’s already being done locally to help reduce rough sleeping and get people off the streets.”

The funding is from the Government’s Help for Single Homeless Fund, which awarded £8 million to 34 projects around the country.

200,000 new affordable homes show success of our long-term economic plan

s300_social_housing_skyline_960x640More than 200,000 new affordable homes have been provided in England since April 2010, according to new figures published today (16 October 2014).

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis welcomed the figures as a “clear sign” of how the government’s long-term economic plan was working, with new affordable homes being provided “in every corner of the country”.

This includes the government’s Affordable Homes Programme: already, 132,000 of the 170,000 homes planned through the programme have been provided, thanks to £19.5 billion public and private funding being invested.

It means that since April 2010, 204,000 new affordable homes have been provided.

In contrast, between 1997 and 2010 the number of social rented housing homes dropped by 420,000.

New figures published today also show how thousands of social housing tenants who previously were locked out of home ownership are now exercising their Right to Buy thanks to the reinvigorated scheme.

Since April 2010, 31,500 households have taken up their Right to Buy – including 22,600 council tenants and 8,900 housing associations with the preserved Right to Buy.

But of these, over three quarters – 24,100 – were able to do so since April 2012 when the increased discounts were introduced in the reinvigorated scheme.

In contrast, only 7,000 households were able to take up their Right to Buy between 2008 and 2010.

brandonlewisHousing Minister Brandon Lewis said:

“Today’s figures are a clear sign of the government’s long-term economic plan in action, with affordable homes being delivered across England.

Since 2010 we’ve delivered 204,000 new affordable homes.

And, thanks to our reinvigorated Right to Buy, social housing tenants who once saw home ownership as being out of reach are now getting their chance to take their first steps onto the property ladder.”

Affordable homes provided across the country

The Affordable Homes Programme includes social rented homes, affordable rented homes and affordable home ownership schemes, and is a key part of the government’s long-term economic plan. And with every new home supporting a job this multi-billion pound programme is helping get people back into work.

A fifth of the affordable homes provided last year, and nearly a quarter of the total since 2010, were provided in London.

The success of the Affordable Homes Programme is one of a number of indicators that England is building following the housing crash in 2008.

Others include:

  • planning permission was granted for 230,000 new homes in England in the last 12 months – equating to planning permissions for 630 homes a day
  • the Help to Buy schemes have helped over 53,000 people in England get on the property ladder with a fraction of the deposit they would normally require – leading developers are building more as a direct result of the scheme, with private housebuilding up a third compared to last year
  • annual council housebuilding starts in England are at a 23-year high
  • housing starts in England are at their highest since 2007
  • the numbers of empty homes in England are now at a 10-year low