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03 JAN 2018

Lots achieved but so much more is left to do

You can read my lastest monthly column for the Witney Gazette, here:

The past few weeks have seen progress on all fronts to improve housing for residents in West Oxfordshire.

Earlier this month, the Government's housing White Paper announced that the housing market in Britain was broken: over decades housing has become less and less affordable, something particularly felt in high-demand areas such as West Oxfordshire. I am keenly aware of the need for more affordable housing to buy and rent, which is why I made this one of my top priorities since being elected. I am working hard in Parliament to ensure that homes are built faster, the housing market becomes more competitive and that there is help for people now.

This is an issue nationwide, not just in West Oxfordshire. It is so important that young people are able to buy and rent property in the area where they have grown up, near to their families, communities and support networks.

The White Paper sets out an ambitious plan to build the homes Britain needs - so that the housing market works for all. At present, the market is broken, because for decades not enough homes have been built. That has meant that house prices are growing faster than incomes and, alongside rising rents, this has hit potential home owners across the country. This is particularly felt here in West Oxfordshire, where it is difficult to buy an affordable home in the towns and villages.

This White Paper sets out ambitious, lasting reform that covers the whole of the house building process. From finding sites, to getting planning permission, and then actually building homes, the Government will take action so that it is easier and quicker to get homes built in the places that they are needed most. I look forward to seeing these new practices put in place and for a better building climate to be created which will benefit all of us.

I do not want large, unsustainable development that destroys West Oxfordshire's unique local character or our countryside. Any new build needs the infrastructure around it to also be put in place. However, I welcome any changes which enables housing development which works for us and ensures that our children are not priced out of their own community.

I welcome plans for the new Garden Village, to be built near Eynsham. This is an example of development that is wanted and comes with the infrastructure needed to be a success for all in the area. The plan provides over 2000 new homes, which I will strongly push to include a mix of housing including starter and affordable homes. It will also include a science park which will provide valuable jobs and be a boost to the local economy. When combined with Oxfordshire County Council's plans for a park and ride bus service to Oxford, this is the kind of development which will work for the people of West Oxfordshire.

This is alongside the District Council's plans for community-led housing. By using funds from the Government's Community Housing Fund, the Council will deliver sustainable, affordable housing for those in need, on sites of little interest to commercial developers. These sites will provide shared accommodation for single under 35s on low income or out of work benefits. This is exactly the kind of programme needed to help make living in areas where you have grown up, live and work a realistic option for many young people in West Oxfordshire.

Housing, planning and development has long been a topic of debate amongst those in West Oxfordshire. Of course it is of the upmost importance to preserve the character of the area, as well as the habitats for the wildlife that call this area home. It is vital to preserve this.

That being said, West Oxfordshire is an area that continues to grow and thrive. We must therefore welcome plans which enable suitable development to take place, in a way which preserve the nature of the constituency, whilst also provides vital home, infrastructure, facilities and jobs. I will continue to find hard to ensure that this balance is achieved and the right kinds of properties are built in the right places to ensure West Oxfordshire remains a fantastic place to live.

If any readers have an issue which they want me as their MP to help with, do email me on robert.courts.mp@parliament.uk or write to me at Robert Courts MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.

Published on 03.01.18 in the Witney Gazette.

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