To Torbay Council:
I am responding to the Torbay Council Consultation relating to Preston Down Road as, though not in my Neighbourhood Forum area, the proposal currently being promoted affects every resident of Torbay.
For the last 30 to 40 years Torbay has built a very small number of affordable homes through political choice which has led to increasing numbers on the housing waiting list. The desirability of retiring to the South West and second home ownership has served to drive up house prices which has made home ownership for local residents increasingly unattainable. The pandemic has further driven up house prices and reduced the number of homes available for private rent as many previously private rented properties were turned into holiday lets.
Torbay has now found itself in a housing crisis.
The land at Preston Down Road is wholly owned by Torbay Council and is to be developed by Torbay’s wholly owned company, TorVista. My question, logically, is why then is Torbay building market housing with only 30% affordable?
Torbay is seeing pressure on attracting key workers due to the rising cost of housing accommodation, whether market or rental, and this current pattern is already showing signs of Torbay potentially entering into a different crisis altogether. Torbay Council itself is having difficulty recruiting staff when, for the first time in many years, we are increasing staff. We are investing up to £100m in the economic regeneration of the Bay but where are the workers going to live?
Would it not serve the communities of Torbay better if we built 100% truly affordable? A portion of social rented accommodation, a portion of market rented accommodation (there is a shortage Bay-wide), a portion of help to buy to enable our employable age groups to stay local, and a portion of key worker accommodation making up the whole.
Whilst applications for housing are being turned down in favour of potential future commercial applications, retail applications are being approved on land allocated for housing, and the only major application for housing is set to provide only 4% affordable housing, it is hard to understand if Torbay Council has a strategy for dealing with the current housing crisis and protecting this area from inappropriate developments like Inglewood.
What are the benefits of owning the land and the housing company if we are merely to repeat the historic patterns that have led to the housing crisis and provide no actual benefit to the residents of Torbay who, ultimately, are the owners of both the land and the company.
Chair, BCG Neighbourhood Forum
More details of the Torbay Council consultation (open until Monday 26th February) are on the council website here.