The speeches that got away – Suzanne Fletcher on accessible housing and freeing Brownfield sites

Unfortunately I missed the housing debate last night as for once I put party over Party. My sister insisted on having two of her children during Federal Conference and I can almost never celebrate with them because I am at Conference. So I took advantage of the chance to do so.

By all accounts the debate was excellent, thoughtful and passionately argued. The issue was whether we should have a national target for house building, which the motion proposed, but ALDC’s amendment did away with. Conference voted to keep it so we are committed to building at 150,000 homes suitable for social rent out of a total of 380,000 per year. I am so pleased that got through. Too many young people find it impossible to find somewhere decent to live that they can afford and we have to be ambitious about resolving that.

But there are two points that weren’t really part of the debate. Stockton’s Suzanne Fletcher wanted to raise the need for accessible housing and freeing up brownfield sites. This is what she would have said if she had been called:

Conference, I am going to speak on 2 important omissions to this motion and amendment. Stockton Lib Dems put in an amendment to this effect, not taken, but here they are.

Firstly about accessible homes.

All steps possible should be made for people to be able to continue to live in their own homes and community for as long as possible, in housing where they can live independently and safely.

What used to be called “LifeTime Homes” is needed to be built to be fully accessible and adaptable to suit older people, those with reduced mobility and wheelchair users. Most of us want to stay in our own homes, streets and communities for as long as we can, and our homes should enable more of us to do this.

It needs all new homes to be built to design standard category 2, or M4(2)

as things stand, only one new accessible home is planned by 2031 for every 15 people over 65 .

This isn’t good enough and Lib Dems must make it their policy to insist on this standard, which only costs a few hundred pounds extra if built in at the beginning.

Secondly .

Much is said about not building on greenfield sites or indeed in people’s own backyards, but nothing about making more brownfield sites available.

Maybe not the same everywhere, but here in Stockton and other post industrial areas there are large tracts of land that are polluted, and would be expensive to clean up to ensure that they are safe to build on. In the North of England 5,000 plus sites of 7,500 hectares equalst 300,000 homes. Any developer would have to build very expensive housing indeed to be able to recoup that cost, and many such sites are otherwise ideally placed for low cost and social housing.

We are asking that polluted brownfield sites have fiscal or grant incentives that are conditional upon the land remediated becoming fit for suitable housing and developed within a reasonable period.

Surely both of these asks for accessible housing, and more housing can be supported by Lib Dem conference, and taken up by our parliamentarians.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • That would have been a great speech. It’s a shame it didn’t make it.

    Our views on housing policy are strongly influenced by our own experiences, and those experiences vary according to where we live and the level of interaction with the good, bad and ugly of property development. As a result, people with very similar values can appear to have wildly different points of view, and unfortunately the debate was undermined a bit by the presumption that those who disagreed were being selfish.

    If you didn’t prioritise a national target, then you were called a NIMBY, worried only about the price of your own home. On the other hand, if you did prioritise a national target, you were in bed with the billionaire developers and didn’t care for the biodiversity crisis or housing standards and everything that comes with it.

    I am deeply mistrustful of anything that gives more power to developers, so was leaning towards voting against targets that IMO they would do their best to abuse and run rings around under resources local planning authorities. However, in the end I was convinced by Laura’s speech that there’s enough in the rest of the policy to safe-guard that side of things, so I voted for the target to remain.

    I was thinking afterwards that the real issue is the quality of politicians in central and local government. Many in this Tory government have accepted large donations from developers, and we know they expect something in return. The under-resourcing of Local Authorities means they aren’t able to be proactive about housing, and are open to bullying of developers, especially if they don’t have the support of their own thoughtful elected members.

    Can I also please encourage people to stop throwing around the term NIMBY if they hope to change minds. Actual NIMBYs don’t care, while people who are reasonably worried because there aren’t enough GPs, or that a development has inadequate consideration of knock-on flooding impacts think it’s you who is ignorant/selfish so stop listening.

  • Helen Dudden 20th Sep '21 - 8:34pm

    I’ve been commenting for sometime on the subject of accessible homes. As I have said before, my home is a fire risk, as its the only place to charge and store my Power wheelchair behind my front door.
    It’s acceptable because it’s the only solution available with no accessible properties.
    We all know about the terrible situation that some disabled people are living in. Unsafe and not accessible.
    It’s been suggested that private rental may be one solution, but it could be costly as space is important, there are some with comments that think an accessible home, is a shower. Habinteg produced a small you tube video stating health and safety. Habinteg are also doing a work shop on the subject.
    Many of us will not enjoy the chance of an accessible home. I also say to councillors, we need to be accountable on the exact number of these homes needed, like with general needs.

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