Comment: No more white papers – give us action


We need four Milton Keynes-size developments in the south to meet population growth – and current plans won’t cut it

The post-EU referendum government has put housing at the centre of its agenda in recognition of its ability to propel the economy.

After decades of failure to construct enough new homes, the past few years have seen a plethora of initiatives to encourage builders and help people get on the housing ladder. That said, we are not close to the new-start or completion aspirations of the Government.

What is more, the system, controlled by private builders, lacks the energy to achieve rampant growth, focusing instead on profitability. As publicly quoted companies, this is their right. But as beneficiaries of huge government intervention, there should be more in their contracts.

Many hoped the housing white paper would give direction to the market. But while it touches on some solutions, it is just not radical enough. The 14 garden villages delivering 48,000 new homes is a start, but not the result needed.

A town such as Milton Keynes, which has boomed over 50 years, has done so off the back of its proximity to the M1, an excellent local road and shopping infrastructure laid down years ago. It is also on the West Coast mainline railway, which has given employers confidence to locate there and grow their businesses with certainty around housing and quality of life.

Houses need to be close to jobs and transport links. It scares me to think we need to create four more developments of the type and size of Milton Keynes (110,000 homes) south of the line from the Severn to the Wash in order to deliver what is required as the UK population escalates towards 80 million over the next 20 years.

We can continue to tinker and evolve but radical thinking is needed. Action needs to be taken now, not delayed as we consult on white papers and drift through another parliament. Clear targets with plans set out from the top down are the only answer; not waiting for local authorities to get their act together.

Robert Sinclair is chief executive of the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries