The severe winter weather of last week put a great strain on the public infrastructure that we rely on every day. This kind of weather is an exception in Kent, but causes considerable disruption when it comes. I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to try and support people through the snow and ice, in particular our emergency services, local councils, the highways teams and the railway staff. Without their care and dedication, the consequences of these poor conditions would undoubtedly have been much worse.
On Monday, this week the Prime Minister gave a major speech outlining how the government intends to bring in further reforms to the planning system to support the development of new homes. These reforms include requirements for developers to starting building properties within two years of being granted permission, or otherwise risk losing the right to develop on that site. This measure will create an incentive for builders to build, rather than sit on a land assets waiting for them to go up in value. The government is proposing new guidelines for local councils to establish the housing need in their areas, in order to create plans to meet that demand. There will also be requirements for a clearer up-front assessment of the infrastructure investment needed to support new developments before work commences, and to set targets for the building of more affordable homes. Another noteworthy measure, creates an incentive for councils to develop clear local plans with land designated for building, but also to give greater protection for non-designated sites next to these areas.
Shepway Council is well placed to benefit from these further planning reforms, because of the work that has already been undertaken to prepare for the proposed new garden town development at Otterpool, to the south of the M20 motorway at junction 11. Identifying an area where development may be possible, and the heavy infrastructure like a motorway junction and railway station are already in place, makes building new homes more achievable. It is clear as well that there is considerable local demand for new housing, particularly for younger residents looking for a place of their own, and working families wanting to buy their first home. It is better as well that we should have a strong local plan for development, and identify the infrastructure needs up front, and the public consultation on the proposals for Otterpool has been designed to help achieve this. I also believe that by creating a plan for new homes, and identifying the best location for them, that we can help protect other sites from speculative development proposals on land that is less suitable for housing.
Creating more affordable homes for people to rent and buy is one of the most important challenges we face today. It is right the government has made this one of its greatest priorities, and that we are developing local plans to meet this need as well.