Archive for Housing

Tom writes to Planning Inspectorate following Saltburn planning decision

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (9th January 2015) has written to the Planning Inspectorate following yesterday’s rejection, by Redcar and Cleveland Council’s Regulatory Committee of an application by house builder, Taylor Wimpey for 130 houses on a greenfield site adjacent to Saltburn’s built up area.

Tom said:
“The reason for writing was to ask that, if Taylor Wimpey decide to appeal the Planning Inspectorate who handle appeals, running any appeal via a Local Planning Inquiry, rather than via what are called “written representations”.

“Given the level of interest that this application has generated, its strategic importance locally and the need for all to be given an oral hearing if possible. I feel that, in matters like these, written representations where an inspector merely reads all the papers relating to the application and letters of objection, does not allow for community involvement sufficiently.

“Obviously there is a danger that the wealthy volume house builders will go for appeal, as they can afford this, and we need the community to be ready for this if it happens.”

Tom renews ‘battle to stop Saltburn development’ before planning meeting

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (30th January 2014) renewed his determination to stop a housing development in Saltburn despite what he called the “thick-headed” previous decision of opposition councillors to combine to kill off the Council’s Local Plan.

Tom said:
“The Council’s Regulatory Committee will be studying this application next week, and I have now read the council’s planning officers report which recommends approval of the 130 home development on open farmland next to Wilton Bank.

“Having read the report, I am conscious of the problems caused by a recent thick headed decision by opposition councillors to kill off the Council’s Local Plan – a framework document that explicitly omitted the site from any consideration of development. The council officers now have to admit – and I use their words “Following the Borough Council’s decision not to approve the Local Plan… and the revised Local Plan timetable indicating that the new Local Plan will be adopted until 2017, the only opportunity to increase the supply of housing in the next few years is through the planning application process.” This shows just how stupid the decision taken was.

“However, I believe there are still material planning grounds to reject the proposal. In their report council officers accept that “The application site is located outside of development limits… and, therefore, the proposals would be contrary to the development plan and should treated as a departure from the plan.”  I concur with that view.

“In addition, whilst developers Taylor Wimpey argue that the council does not have a 5 year land bank for development – the hurdle erected by Eric Pickles’ National Planning Framework – council planners maintain that this is wrong and that the Council’s latest five-year supply assessment indicates that there is a 5.3 years supply, which is above this requirement. Given this, I would also argue that this is another reason why the proposal should be rejected by councillors on the basis that they would seek to see that this target is maintained by only use of sites which were identified in that past Local Plan.

“But the great tragedy is that this all should not have been allowed to happen.  It is only the thoughtless, inane, actions of a cabal of Tory, Lib Dem, Independent and Green councillors that leaves us where we are today. Indeed, in a reply of the adage of tragedy followed by farce, a leading opposition councillor who played a leading part in the junking of the Local Plan now argues in his submission to the committee that any alterations to existing policies – and again I quote “should be via a council’s Local Plan” – which the one he killed had that safeguard for this site. Quite simply, words fail me.”

Tom’s objection to housing proposals at Wilton Bank

Dear Ms Skelton,

Planning Application R/2014/0631/00M

I wish to lodge a formal objection to this application lodged by Messrs Taylor Wimpy PLC, and which involves a proposal to build 130 houses on land directly to the west of Wilton Bank in Saltburn, and which is on land presently used as a riding stable and large exercise paddock.

I recognise that in strict geographical terms this land is within the St Germain’s ward of the council and therefore outwith my own constituency, but this is a matter of mere yards and the proposal does impinge on my Saltburn constituents.

My objections are as follows.

This was not a site identified in the emerging local plan for any housing allocation.  I recognise that a full meeting of the council did determine to expunge this document and this requiring the exercise to start afresh.  I accept this decision, although I have said publically that it was wrong headed, and those who voted for this are culpable of derailing a key policy document that every council needs to have.  However, the wording and recommendations of that document are on record and I believe that it is incumbent on all members of the Regulatory Committee to bear this in mind when determining this application.

Secondly, the existing plan structure now relies on the 2007 Local Development Framework.  This is now an old document, and reflects past conditions.  However it exists and must be seen as a material consideration.  Thus, the fact that this proposal is outside of the then accepted limits to development in and around Saltburn must be seen as important.

Thirdly, the proposal further erodes the accepted and long standing green wedge between Saltburn and Marske.  This was seen as proper grounds for the previous rejection of a proposal for housing at the Eastern end of Windy Hill Lane, although I am aware that this is now, given the deletion of the local plan, being appealed by the developers.

Fourthly the proposal does, in my view, detract from the essentially rural aspect of the land that slopes to the South of the site and this impinges significantly on the natural countryside running up to the ridge from above the Skelton Beck Valley to the ridge above the Skelton Beck Valley and Errington Woods.

Fifthly, the previous use of this site has been, for many years now, totally non-agricultural, and given this, much of the land resembles in its make-up, natural pastureland, and the home to a significant variety of flora and fauna.  This is a precious natural resource and should be protected.

Sixthly, I feel given the importance of this proposal, that there needs to be a site meeting at which members of the regulatory committee can view the site and hear the formal objections of local residents and myself.

Can these views be forwarded to your development control officers for tabling on the occasion when this application is to be debated and determined?

I look forward to hearing from them in due course.

With all best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Blenkinsop MP

‘Shocking’ 60% rise in working people claiming housing benefit

New research from the House of Commons Library has revealed a staggering sixty per cent increase in working people claiming housing benefit, compared with 2010. That’s 400,000 more working people claiming housing benefit every year. The research shows that this will cost the taxpayer an estimated extra £4.8bn in housing benefit over the course of this Parliament.

Commenting on these new figures Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, said:
“These shocking new figures are clear evidence are clear evidence that this Tory-led Government is incapable of getting the housing benefit bill under control. The rhetoric may be tough, but the facts simply don’t back it up.

“But the main reason that these figures are so stark is because it is the huge increase is amongst people who are actually in work and, due to the cost-of-living crisis, their wages are failing to cover their rent.

“Both local authorities in my constituency [Middlesbrough Borough Council and Redcar and Cleveland] have seen an increase in the number of people in work claiming housing benefit. I strongly suspect that many of the people included in these figures will be struggling to get by on zero hours contracts or unable to get the hours they want.

“Labour will tackle the rising cost-of-living by freezing gas and electricity bills and we’ll make work pay by restoring the value of the national minimum wage and getting more employers to pay a living wage, ensuring more people earn enough to cover the cost of living.”

‘Teesside Tories and Lib Dems saying one thing and doing another’ – planning stances raised in Westminster debate

Today (8th January 2014), in a Westminster Hall debate on ‘Planning reform and local plans’, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop highlighted the seemingly hypocritical stances adopted by Teesside Coalition MPs James Wharton and Ian Swales.

Tom said:
“Many residents in Stockton South and Redcar have been left confused by the position their Members of Parliament have taken over development proposals and draft Local Plans.

“For example, Stockton Council has been under continual attack by the Tory MP for Stockton South (James Wharton) for its planning decisions, with him branding the Council’s Leader as “Bob the Builder”. This is despite the fact that the Hon. Member has not once since May 2010 objected to a planning application, and despite the fact that it is his Government that is coercing the Council into making these decisions.

“It is not just Stockton Council that finds itself under attack. Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council has been subjected to much criticism over its draft Local Plan from local Liberal Democrats. I have submitted a response to the consultation for this document, as has my colleague Anna Turley, Labour’s candidate for Redcar, who has urged for the inclusion of a commitment to a traditional pier and stressed her opposition to proposed developments in Marske.

“Despite criticism of the Council’s draft Local Plan in the press and in their dubious Focus leaflets, neither the Lib Dem MP for Redcar or the Redcar and Cleveland Liberal Democrats have responded to the consultation.

Tom added:
“Residents in both Redcar and Stockton South will not be duped when it comes to Teesside Tories and Lib Dems saying one thing but do another.”

Tom blasts local Tory council’s move to ‘push all the housing development into Guisborough’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (January 7th 2014) blasted comments made by Tory-run North Yorkshire Council who have now formally argued that all new housing that could potentially have impacted on their area, should be sited in Guisborough.

Tom said:
“As part of the preparation of Redcar and Cleveland Council’s Local Plan – the document that identified land use across the borough – neighbouring councils are invited to submit comments on the draft document. Neighbouring Tory-run Hambleton District Council, which includes wealthy towns like Great Ayton, Swainby and Stokesley have responded and their message is ‘all the new houses that might have come their way should go to Guisborough’.

“In formal terms they say:

“We therefore support your new Local Plan. This is particularly in respect of seeking to stem out-migration by fully meeting local housing needs within the Borough through over allocating land and replacing difficult to deliver brownfield sites with more attractive large greenfield sites, such as those around Guisborough. This should lead to less pressure on the local housing market in nearby settlements in the north east of Hambleton (ie the Stokesley/Great Ayton area) which suffers from high house prices and affordability problems for local people.”

“So there we have it. The leafy suburbs of Hambleton should be protected from any new housing development that should then be sited in Guisborough instead. That this would mean losing even more local greenfield land and more pressure on local Guisborough services and facilities like schools and GP clinics.

“This is simply Tory NIMBY-ism at its worst. I deplore these comments, and I would hope that local Conservative Councillors in Guisborough and my local Conservative Parliamentary challenger will echo their own disgust at these comments.”

Tom Blenkinsop MP says repealing the Bedroom Tax “is the right thing to do”

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has welcomed Labour’s decision this week to repeal the Bedroom Tax, saying it will give hope to the many disabled and vulnerable people in this area who have been unfairly hit by David Cameron’s cruel tax.

The Bedroom Tax hits over 400,000 disabled people nationwide, and 50,000 people in the North East. For the vast majority of those affected, there is nowhere smaller to move to, hitting vulnerable people with an average bill of £720 a year through no fault of their own. Instead of reducing the housing benefit bill, there is now a real risk the Bedroom Tax will cost more than it saves.

Tom Blenkinsop MP said: “Repealing the Bedroom Tax is absolutely the right thing to do.

“The Bedroom Tax tells you all you need to know about how out of touch David Cameron is, targeting the most vulnerable whilst handing out tax cuts to the nation’s millionaires.

“It doesn’t have to be this way.

“The next Labour Government will need to make tough choices on spending and in these tough times we won’t borrow more to pay for social security. But we can and will do things differently.”

The next Labour Government will repeal the Bedroom Tax without extra borrowing. To cover the £470m cost of repealing the Bedroom Tax, funds have been earmarked from:

  • reversing George Osborne’s recent tax cut for hedge funds announced in Budget 2013;
  • reversing George Osborne’s shares for rights scheme which has been rejected by businesses, has opened up a tax loophole and will lead to £1bn being lost to the Exchequer according to the Office for Budget Responsibility; and
  • tackling disguised employment in the construction industry.

Tom said: “I think most ordinary people will think Labour’s plans to repeal the Bedroom Tax are sensible and fair.

“The tax cuts for hedge funds introduced earlier this year cannot be a priority when disabled people are being plunged into debt. The Bedroom Tax is a cruel and unfair policy that hits the vulnerable and what’s more risks costing more than it saves. That is just not the kind of Britain most people in Teesside and East Cleveland want to live in.”

Tom highlights DWP ‘Bedroom Tax’ confusion in Armed Forces debate

In an Opposition Day Debate today (25th June 2013) to commemorate and celebrate the Armed Forces, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, highlighted the on-going confusion regarding the Bedroom Tax hitting families with adult children who are serving their country.

In March this year the Coalition Government performed an apparent U-turn when they made the following exemption:

Adult children who are in the Armed Forces (including the Reserve Forces) but who continue to live with parents will be treated as continuing to live at home, even when deployed on operations.

Tom believes the rushed U-turn has left the new rules unclear, with local authorities interpreting them with varying degrees of success.

Tom made his comments following communication from his constituent Alison Huggan of Coulby Newham who has twin sons in the armed forces and is still being hit by the Bedroom Tax.

Tom said:
“Three months ago we thought we had an excellent result. Under pressure from our campaigning we thought the government had realised their mistake and put it right by making this exemption.

“The rushed U-turn has left the new rules unclear, with local authorities interpreting them with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, the way the government has worded the regulations only a tiny number of soldiers, primarily reservists, will be exempt.

“If they lived in barracks prior to going away in operations and/or prior to commencing pre-deployment training, the DWP holds that they aren’t the claimant’s non-dependent. For all intents and purposes, the Government seem to be redefining what adult children – who are members of the armed forces – have as their homes.

“It is true that you can have a number of residences, however, for tax purposes, there is only one home or domicile used. If, as Ministers who have responded to questions on this issue by myself and the Shadow Work and Pensions Minister, seem to suggest, that the Government consider barracks the home for adult children who usually live there, then the barracks should be used for tax purposes also. As far as I’m concerned it is grossly unfair to differentiate the two.

“The Government urgently needs to clarify their guidelines that were supposed to exempt the families of members of the armed forces from the ‘Bedroom Tax’, yet ministers seem to have created another cruel discrepancy that is a direct attack on those who are literally putting their lives on the line to keep all of us safe.”

‘Bedroom tax’ impact on armed forces raised at PMQs

At Prime Minister’s Questions today (6th Feb 2013) the Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, raised the issue of the ‘bedroom tax’ and how it could impact on those serving in the Armed Forces and cited the case of Alison Huggan, from Middlesbrough, who has two sons currently serving as soldiers in the British Army.

Last year Local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, highlighted Alison’s plight whose sons face the very real prospect of not having a bed to come home to.

The ‘bedroom tax’ will come into force in April 2013 when thousands of families will have their housing benefit reduced by up to £80 a month.

Tom said:
“I’m pleased that this issue was raised in Parliament today as people need to be aware of this ill-conceived policy; one I believe that the Prime Minister doesn’t seem to understand quite how it will work, nor the devastating impact it will have on families.

“I know Alison has spoken with housing officials about moving to a smaller one bedroom property, only to be told that they do not have enough one bedroom properties to meet the need of everyone. So what that essentially means is that Alison will now have to find the money to pay for these bedrooms.

“The policy is a farce and one that will unravel extremely quickly. It’s a disgrace that people face the uncertainty of being turfed out of their homes unless they can find the extra money. This will all be happening at the same time as 8,000 millionaires get a tax cut worth on average £107,500.”

‘Rent reforms urgent as costs soar’

Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop is today (1st February 2013) calling for urgent action as new research shows rent in Middlesbrough increased by 3.4% from 2011 to 2012 – the equivalent of £171.

Research by Shelter released showed that rent was up in 83% of the country by an average of £300 per year.

Tom said:
“These rent increases are coming at a time when many of my constituents are seeing their wages stagnate yet their bills are soaring and they are struggling to save for a home they can eventually call their own.

“It is apt that the report labels it as a ‘rent trap’. The current situation seriously compromises any aspiring first-time buyers ability to get on the property ladder when deposits for mortgages costs tens of thousands, whilst all the time rent prices are rising so they are able to save less towards their deposit. It’s an extremely frustrating and sad situation.

“The Tory-led Government have made things even harder by rolling back basic protections for private renters. Urgent action is needed to make the market more affordable, building affordable homes and developing better protections for those who are long-term private renters – where landlords can rely on the tenant to pay the bill on time and keep the property in a good condition. It is a growing problem that seriously needs dealing with.”