Housing Strategy – In need of a rethink?

Another week, and more confused messages in Hillingdon regarding housing. 

Recently, West Drayton and South Hayes were designated as ‘The Heathrow Opportunity Area’ by Hillingdon Council, enabling the building of offices and hotels with minimum requirements for planning permission to be sought, leading to fears of West Drayton High Street becoming a carbon copy of the A4 Bath Road. 

I have pointed out before that this is a flawed strategy – After all, we have an abundance of empty office space in the Borough, but affordable housing is at a premium due to the combination of an increased birth rate and mass immigration. 

However, if we take this on face value, and the Council strategy is to build up industry in West Drayton, then surely some of that excess office space in Uxbridge could be converted to residential use? Not according to the planners at Hillingdon Council, who have thrown out a plan to convert disused office space in Rockingham Road to flats, despite it having been empty for years and unlikely to be filled due to increased competition from newer office ‘parks’ on the Oxford Road.

Apparently, the planning committee felt that this would be an unacceptable loss of employment land, that it is mainly an industrial area, and that there were not enough local amenities for children.

With both Fassnidge Park and Rockingham Recreation Ground a short walk away, and substantial housing estates within a stones throw, it begs the question – Do they really know the area? 

Now we have the revelation that there are plans to loosen the laws governing houses of multiple occupation (HMO’s), encouraging small investors to buy up the remaining 3 and 4 bed housing stock on the market and then converting it to flats to make the maximum profit. This again decreases the amount of family orientated properties available, and encourages overcrowding and the breakdown of community ties. 

For once, I am in complete agreement with Hayes & Harlington MP John McDonnell, who has challenged this decision in The House of Commons, and called for the retention of the laws that mean planning permission must be sought before conversion of housing stock to HMO’s. 

So, what is the answer to our housing problems in the Borough? With straightened finances and cuts looming, I would at least suggest suspending mass immigration for now, with any new arrivals having to prove that they already have housing and employment arranged, and the means to support themselves. 

With new developments then coming on stream at the old NATS site in Porters Way, and the Hayes & Yeading football ground in Church Road, we really need to look at how ‘affordable’ housing is allocated to those on the waiting lists – The system has been abused for years, with hard working families penalised in favour of the feckless who play the system to get housed on ‘need’. 

Do the planners have the drive, direction and clarity of purpose to solve the problems? I hope so, but current events do not back up such optimism.

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