The government’s housing minister spoke out about local infrastructure concerns during a visit to Highbridge this week where he saw several of the town’s multi-million pound housing developments.
Brandon Lewis, the Minister of State for Housing and Planning, met Burnham and Highbridge’s MP James Heappey and local councillors last Thursday (March 31st).
Responding to local concerns about inadequate infrastructure – roads, schools and medical facilities – to support new homes, he said: “It’s an important issue and we are working across government on this. I am working with colleagues at the Department of Transport and with MPs like James Heappey to lobby the Chancellor to ensure we get the right infrastructure coming in, and ensure the Department of Education has money to build schools and local authorities have ‘106 agreements’ in place to ensure infrastructure is built into housing plans.”
He added: “Planning decisions have to be made in line with national policies and there’s a national policy framework which makes it very clear to local authorities when developing their plans that they have to be sustainable. That includes infrastructure – whether that’s roads, schools, doctors surgeries or whatever is needed locally. The local authorities have to plan that.”
Bob Filmer, Sedgemoor’s planning committee Chairman, said: “We need to reflect the needs and desires of the local community, which nationally is very difficult to do. If we get that responsibility we will try to deliver the local needs.”
The Minister was also asked about a lack of affordable homes in the Burnham area. He responded: “We have the biggest building programme since the 1970s underway and £20billion of spending is going into shared ownership across the UK which gets people into homes at a much lower deposit, sometimes as low as £1,400. We are promoting rent to buy and new products for starters and first time buyers. We need to build more homes – the greater supply we have, the geater affordability there will be.”
He was shown the site of the former Highbridge Hotel, which is currently being redeveloped by the YMCA with the assistance of central government funding.
And he also visited the Knightstone development at the former Highbridge Cattle Market site, saying that he was impressed at the work underway to deliver new homes in the town.
Pictured: Brandon Lewis, the Minister of State for Housing and Planning, in Highbridge for his special visit this week (photos Mike Lang)