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Letter: London Should ‘Swallow Its Own Smoke’

Published on: 4 Feb, 2014
Updated on: 4 Feb, 2014

From: Fiona White
Surrey County Councillor – Guildford West Division

Guildford borough green belt.

Guildford borough green belt.

The Guardian newspaper has carried an article about Bishops Avenue in London where a large number of properties worth millions of pounds have been bought, presumably for investment, and then left to stand empty. They are not being looked after properly and are becoming derelict hulks. It sounds as though they have been like that for years.

At the same time Guildford and other parts of Surrey are being asked to give up areas of green belt to provide housing not only for their own residents but also to take an overspill from London where prices are so high that few people can afford to buy there. In turn, that puts up prices here so that local people are priced out of the market.

It seems to me that London should deal with its own housing problems and that government should give them the powers to do that instead of forcing areas outside London to make choices between building in the green belt or unacceptable densities of properties in the urban areas.

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Responses to Letter: London Should ‘Swallow Its Own Smoke’

  1. Mark Wooldridge Reply

    February 11, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    The housing problem has been this way for way over 15 years. The green belt has always been threatened.

    There’s a distinct lack of affordable social housing in Surrey as a whole, especially in Guildford and Waverley. House prices have always been high, especially in the Surrey Hills.

    I believe that the problem with housing and London is not the housing itself. It’s a mix of the demographics of the country and the employment situation elsewhere.

    Job opportunities outside the South East have generally not been as good as here. So some people choose to find work in the London area… and families move, and grow, and their children seek work. The wealth concentration in the UK has basically been in London too. Since the financial disaster of 2008, the recovery has been seen with the wealthiest, not the general population. Strangely enough, it has trickled down a bit, so employment growth has occurred where the money is – London.

    After all, the green belt was put in place to constrain London’s growth, amongst other things. Now it appears London is truly butting up to the green belt. And yes, the locals are priced out of the market. The children are living with their parents longer, and are also finding it extremely difficult to find their own place.

    I write this because when I met my wife, we had a choice of living arrangements. One was to live here, cramped up with my parents. The other was to go with my wife to her home in Guilford County, North Carolina, USA, and grow our lives there.

    Out of necessity (and love), I moved. That was back in 1999. Since then, my sister grew up, excelled in her education, met and married a wonderful man, and they managed to buy their own house. We managed to buy our own home too. I understand that comparing a £65,000 three-bedroom bungalow on one acre of land versus a £250,000 three-bedroom terraced home 35,000 miles apart is a stretch, but it proves that if the opportunity of a better life exists elsewhere, people will choose it.

    Instead, I feel that the government should focus more resources in developing and encouraging growth and employment outside of the South East.

    If the opportunities for a better life exist in Liverpool or Manchester than London, wouldn’t people move there? What about expanding northeast of London? That’s where the poverty is. Lift poverty there. Make housing affordable and attractive there. I believe this would alleive pressure from the southwest green belt. A win-win for everyone, except those who want house prices in Surrey to grow at higher rates.

  2. jim allen Reply

    February 13, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Common sense at last well said

  3. Susan Parker Reply

    April 23, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Government has now confirmed that London has capacity to swallow its own smoke – see the report published today, 23 April 2014 –

    Note a couple of interesting statistics from this government report:
    Despite record numbers of people living in the capital by 2021, the inner boroughs will still contain 1.7 million fewer people than they did in 1939.
    Initial Savills research indicates that rediscovering just half of this former housing capacity would supply the whole of London’s projected housing needs for the next 17 years.

    Government plans include rebuilding these estates to deliver more homes and commercial space on the same amount of land. The homes would be a combination of 5 to 6 storey homes and blocks of flats.

    Carol Humphrey, our head of planning, has spoken publicly about London’s housing being imposed on Guildford. It doesn’t need to be. Nor should we be offering to take other areas’ need – as the responses document to the Local Plan is suggesting.

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