Poll after poll shows huge public support for new policies and initiatives to deliver much needed new homes to deal with the Housing crisis, particularly to tackle ‘generation rent’ with far too many young people priced out. Politicians and commentators across the political spectrum are united in pushing for more houses, seeking the magic bullet to deliver the significant uplift that has thwarted Governments of all persuasions. We are all signed up so why is it so hard?

This week at the Swindon Council planning meeting the controversial Ambrose Field development was passed in the face of public opposition and politicians of all persuasions campaigning to block it. Despite being outside the Local Plan, the members were advised if they didn’t pass it the developer would overturn this decision at an appeal, leading to financial damages.

So with everyone united in the need for new housing, why was this scheme so bitterly opposed? Perhaps it had good reason to be opposed but the reality is this could have been any scheme in any town at any time – all opposed. But are they all inappropriate? Time and time again we proclaim we want more houses, yet when proposed in our back yard the message is clear: ‘they should be built elsewhere’. This either blocks, or at the very least delays development, hence why as a nation we have fallen so far behind.

The Government could step in and impose housing on communities. Centrally imposed targets were tried by the last Labour Government, triggered by their frustration at the falling numbers of homes being built. In Swindon’s case they proposed 35,000 in just 20 years, woefully unrealistic but also a reflection on just how far as a nation we had fallen behind.

We scrapped the centrally imposed targets and allowed Local Authorities to set more realistic local plans. In Swindon’s case they were quick out of the blocks, securing cross-party support for a sensible local plan proposing 22,000 over 20 years, the same as built in the previous 20 years. I have done national, regional and local media praising the cross-party work – Swindon at its best. The plan strikes the balance of delivering the houses we need, whilst protecting areas outside from speculative development. Though it has to be delivered.

So with the Local Plan protecting us, why was Ambrose Field allowed to pass? Despite Swindon’s good intentions, we are simply not delivering houses quickly enough. The local plan is a long way behind schedule, hence the failure of the 3 and 5 year land supply rules. Politicians have already called for these rules to be changed, but we ultimately need to ensure that the nation meets its housings needs. To get us back on track we need new areas to be identified. If we don’t, speculative developers will, which can then lead to inappropriate and poor quality development. Where we control development, we can insist on high quality, green buffers, superfast fibre broadband, infrastructure investment etc. Like we did with Tadpole Garden Village.

The priority for development is control and I will do all I can to support Swindon Council as they bring forward new opportunities to get the Local Plan back on track. We not only owe this to existing residents, but also the next generation seeking to get on the housing