Today, I was able to contribute to the Westminster Hall Debate on Access to Affordable Housing and Planning Reform.
Like many former coal communities, the Bolsover constituency is fairly rural. Small pit villages, such as Glapwell and Shuttlewood, and small towns are its backbone. Anyone who has driven through the constituency recently will have seen the number of new dwellings popping up—439 since 2019. I have had the pleasure of visiting many of them, and many are affordable. It is a step in the right direction. It is great to hear how welcome those new residents are, many of whom are moving from outside the constituency and, indeed, from the south-east because they realise the benefits of living in Derbyshire.
In my relatively short time as the Member for Bolsover, my mission has always been focused on four things: infrastructure, skilled jobs, education and housing, which are all tied together. An area needs those things to thrive. They cannot be looked at in isolation. There is no point having housing without jobs and infrastructure, and there is no point building it all without equipping people with the skills they need to take advantage of those opportunities. Places in my constituency such as Shirebrook have suffered cycles of stagnation and deprivation that are difficult to disrupt. Nothing has ever really replaced the jobs and pride that the mines brought to many of my local communities. Honest people can work hard their entire lives, but because of the social and economic facts of the area, it is hard to grow the standard of living.
It is crucial that the Government continue to make bold decisions to promote the sustainable building of new homes in parts of the world like Shirebrook, which the Minister visited recently. On top of the tremendous benefits to the construction sector, new affordable housing is an important part of our offer to young people in our community. For too long, it has been accepted that, to find a good job and start a good life, people have to move away from places like Bolsover, where there are limited services and opportunities. Building affordable homes gives young people an incentive to stay local and invest their energy and creativity in the place they grew up. It can keep families together; staying local allows young people to maintain their most powerful support networks during a mental health crisis, takes pressure off the social care system and breaks down the worrying trend of loneliness in old age.
That is why I particularly welcome the Government’s decision to launch the First Homes scheme in Shirebrook. It allows local people and key workers the opportunity to buy their first home at a 30% discount. I was grateful to host the then Secretary of State for Housing, my right hon. Friend Robert Jenrick, who I think appreciated the unique challenges associated with regeneration in my constituency. Actively building new homes allows us to plan and grow our public services sustainably. Why do we build a few more houses in a village, with a salami-slice approach, rather than building a proper new estate with a school and GP practice, which can benefit the whole community? Building sustainably means a stronger local market for public services, which means better services for residents. When residents are against developments, it is almost certainly because they are unsustainable.
That is also why I am supporting and working with a number of local stakeholders on a project that has been known by many names, but which we will refer to as the Shirebrook growth corridor. We are looking to bring together infrastructure, housing, education and employment opportunities, which can help to break the cycle of stagnation that places such as Shirebrook have seen and unleash our potential.
I am sure the Minister will agree that now is the best time to embrace developing sustainably. We need to look at how we can use green technologies, such as mine water heating, electric vehicle charging points and heat pumps to reduce energy bills, reduce emissions and make the journey to net zero much more achievable. That is precisely what we are doing with the Shirebrook growth corridor.
All of that is not without its challenges, however. During the summer, I did a series of village hall meetings across my constituency and was slightly amazed that the most raised topic was not anything on the national agenda; it was parking in rural villages. Many of those areas were built at a time when most families did not have a car and if they did, they had one. Now, it is perfectly common for families to have two or three. That puts a huge burden on the villages in question and people do not like the traffic that builds up. I therefore encourage the Minister to get his officials to give some serious thought as to how we can solve the great parking issue in rural areas, particularly in areas such as Pinxton.
I would also raise section 106 moneys, because unfortunately, we hear time and again that although section 106 moneys have been agreed, they do not appear. Serious efforts are needed to ensure that residents are not being undersold by developers.
In closing, Dr Huq, as I can see that you are giving me that look, affordable housing is a vital cog in the system, but we need to see it in line with all the other elements that make sustainable communities. I am grateful for the way the Department has engaged with me so far, but I look forward to further conversations on the Shirebrook growth corridor, among many other things.
You can listen to my full speech in the video or read here https://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2021-12-07a.51.0...