Inspector gives thumbs up to council’s homes plans

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A planning inspector has ruled that a council’s proposals to earmark land for thousands of homes and businesses is ‘sound’.

An inquiry had been taking place to establish the suitability of plans put together by South Lakeland District Council (SLDC), which includes Kirkby Lonsdale and Milnthorpe.

And today, the authority wasted no time in revealing its vision to provide 1,000 new jobs and 1,000 affordable rented homes in the district over the next 10 years.

It would be the first stage of the wider plan for 5,277 homes on 68 sites and business developments in 20 areas by 2025.

Many parts of the region suffer from an acute shortage of houses and flats for local people.

More than 3,000 people are looking for affordable homes at present with 34 bids for each property.

And around 4,300 households in South Lakeland are in ‘housing need’ and there are few empty business premises available for new and growing employers.

The move, which is included in a revised Council Plan, will be considered by full council on December 17.

After a long-running public consultation and hundreds of alterations to the original proposals, the authority welcomed the inspector’s decision.

Once adopted, the plans will also help businesses which want to expand, the council said.

Milnthorpe-based Houghton-Parkhouse Ltd, which manufactures livestock transportation equipment, is one of them.

Managing director Michael Houghton said: “We have a great location in South Lakeland and want to continue to develop our business within this area.”

Peter Thornton, leader of South Lakeland District Council, said: “Our initial focus is to encourage the creation of at least 1,000 new jobs and 1,000 affordable homes to rent over the next 10 years.

“Good jobs and affordable homes are hugely important to young people in South Lakeland. We are determined to play our part in making sure they are provided.”

A recent report by housing charity Shelter said just 2.8 per cent of homes in South Lakeland were affordable for families with children while experts predict that by 2033 almost 37 per cent of the district will be over 65.

Coun Thornton added: “The situation is urgent. We must retain and attract young people and suitable jobs or our area will decline. We must also provide suitable supported homes for older people.

“We have to take action now to preserve the quality of life we enjoy now for future generations.”

The plan designates uses for sites in South Lakeland outside the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.

It indicates in principle how the land should be used but full planning applications must still be approved prior to any development.

As well as providing space for local firms to expand, SLDC said it was striving to attract business from outside the district with an emphasis on advanced manufacturing, digital and creative, agricultural supply chains, and the energy sector.

Coun Jonathan Brook, SLDC’s portfolio holder for strategic growth, said: “New homes and jobs go hand in hand.

“Both will help to improve the quality of life for local people while boosting the local economy and ensuring that South Lakeland continues to thrive.”

The 4,300 households in housing need include people in homes which are overcrowded or in need of repair, and those who are homeless or in insecure accommodation.

Many of them are among more than 3,000 on the South Lakes Housing waiting list.

Affordable housing includes discounted homes for sale and shared ownership schemes under which buyers pay part-mortgage and part-rent each month in return for a percentage share of the property.

A number of new schemes are already being built in South Lakeland as a result of the Land Allocations Local Plan.

Properties are also being made available on the open market on the back of the plan, including homes for elderly people in Kirkby Lonsdale, where McCarthy & Stone is building 36 ‘Later Living’ properties for the over sixties on Tram Lane.

Coun Graham Vincent, SLDC portfolio holder for health and wellbeing, added: “We don’t want people to have to move out of the areas where they grew up or in which they work because they cannot find an affordable home there.

“We will continue to work closely with residents, housing associations and developers to deliver the homes and jobs needed by local people.”