Urgent need for more

Council housing.
Council housing.

I am writing in response to the Lancaster Guardian’s front page article – Fury over new £8.5m council housing (October 9).

As a reminder for your readers, the article was a report on a Cabinet meeting at which one of the items we discussed was a proposal for new council housing in the district.

This is a very important issue because, as you are no doubt aware, the Lancaster district, and indeed the country as a whole, suffers from an acute lack of affordable housing.

Although we are making great strides to improving the number available locally, there still remains a significant shortfall and there is an urgent need to build more.

Funding for the scheme will come from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), which is ring-fenced and cannot be spent on non-housing related projects.

The £8.5 million referred to in your article is available over the medium to long term and does not necessarily relate to the amount which would be spent on this first phase.

At last week’s meeting we discussed a number of options for potential locations and we welcomed local residents from two of the areas which had been shortlisted.

I would like to place on record my thanks to each of them for attending the meeting and presenting their responses to the proposals.

There was certainly plenty of passion about, but I don’t think I heard “fury” in the voices of those that spoke. Each of the speakers expressed themselves eloquently and put forward considered and well-argued cases.

We will always listen to people’s views when expressed in such a fashion and give due consideration to the arguments that are raised.

We do, however, need to strike a balance between the needs of residents in a particular location and those of the community as a whole.

Contrary to the claims that we are not interested in the well-being of residents, it is precisely because we are deeply concerned about their future housing needs that we are looking at building new council housing.

In doing so we have to look at what sites are available and naturally land owned by the council will always be examined first.

At this stage all we have asked for is for more work to be done on determining whether or not they are suitable – no decisions have been taken to proceed with building work and there are certainly no “done deals”.

On Honister Road, for example, although we have said that up to 55 new homes could be built, this is very much a maximum and if any development did take place the reality is it would be a much smaller number of houses.

It is possible that following the appraisal stage, some or all of the sites may not prove suitable and therefore we have also asked for more sites to be examined so we have a full range of options from which to choose.

Coun Karen Leytham

Cabinet member with responsibility for Health and Housing

Lancaster City Council.