One of my photos

Pushing for 40%

July 13th, 2009 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · No Comments · Politics

On Saturday not only was I up before 10am but I was out and about: in Broadbridge Heath to be precise.  I met up with some colleagues from Horsham Labour Party to go knocking on doors.   For a change we were not asknig anybody to vote for us, but just to support us in one of our campaigns by signing a slightly soggy petition.The story so far is that a large housing development has been proposed at Broadbridge Heath.  The council decided that it should be built with 40% of the units being affordable housing.  Just before anything was actually signed, the developers who had been in discussions with the council for ages decided that they couldn’t afford to do that and asked if the council would accept only 20% of the housing to be affordable.  The council, or its executive, met and decided that was fine.  Horsham LP decided that it was not fine, that we didn’t want a development where 80% was unaffordable.

So we put together a petition to the council saying that we want them to stick to their original plan, agreed by the council and included in its housing strategy.   What we found when we took this petition around was a mixed reception: half the people were out and the other half were only too happy to sign it – with very few exceptions.  And these were not grudging signatures just to make us go away – we were often asked to hold on while somebody went to get their partner to sign up.  Even those who would rather there was no development at all agreed that if was going to happen it should include more homes for local families rather than investment starter-castles.

All very strange.   We do not pick up a lot of votes in Horsham.  I think there has never been a Labour councillor electedthere for either the district or county, and yet whenever we present specific opinons or policies relating to local issues we get quite good support.  I think that people are generally a little more socialist than they realise or would admit.  I am reminded of what Tony Benn said: that the most socialist thing we ever did was also the most popular (The NHS).

It was a good start – although that is not the only thing we are doing.  While we do not have anybody on the council we are able to use some little-known process to get the decision called in by the Government Office of the South-East, which any citizen can do.  We’ll see how that goes.

What is particularly frustrating is that, in the past, when we have pushed for all development to have a greater proportion of affordable or (preferably) social housing for rent included the council have more or less said it is not worth the trouble on small developments and that they would hit their targets via the larger numbers on a couple of large-scale developments; and now they are backing out of them too.

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