A NEW Conservative government would provide first-time buyers with a 30% homebuying discount and mortgages that would have a fixed rate for the duration of the loan.
And the party would also seek to build more than a million new homes across the country over the next five years.
It would also extend pay-as-you-go ticketing to nearly 200 more stations across the south east, so that contactless payment methods could be used by commuters – in the same way that Reading Buses’ services do.
The party is also pledging to give up to £25 million to five, unnamed, towns in the south east to regenerate their high streets.
The pledges were made by communities secretary Robert Jenrick and health secretary Matt Hancock when they visited the Microsoft campus in Earley on Thursday, November 28.
Mr Jenrick said of the high street regeneration funding: “It would raise up people’s living standards, ensuring that we have transformative investment in transport, in technology, in skills and culture, and breathing new life in our high streets, which we all know are coming through an unprecedented period of change as consumer habits change.
“We want them to thrive and have a strong sense of community.”
On housing he said: “We have delivered over a million new homes in this country over the last five years, including 250,000 in the last year alone. That’s the highest number that we have built as a country over the last 30 years. But we know it’s just the beginning, we have to go further.
“We want to deliver more mores, we want to help more people buy their own home. We want to help the young people to have the pleasure to provide the security to build a family in a home that you can truly call your own.
“And we want to help millions of renters to get a fair deal as well. That’s why we’re working to deliver at least another million homes in the next five years. We’ve set ourselves a target of providing 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.”
He said that the party would concentrate on brownfield land and wanted to protect greenbelt.
“In places like this we’re going to ensure that infrastructure comes first, so when you see the new homes being built, you can have confidence that doctor surgeries, the school places will be there as the new homes are being built.”
Mr Jenrick also pledged to allow local communities to have a say in what these homes would look like so they “are safe, high quality and environmentally friendly” and tree-lined.
“You, as citizens, have the right to object to lazy and hopeless and ugly development,” he added.
The party is also pledging to help the two million renters in the UK who can’t afford a mortgage He pledged to introduce a fixed-rate mortgage that would be for the full duration of the term, and that they would need a 5% deposit.
“We’re also going to ensure that the homes you see being built are actually benefitting people who live here in the south east,” he continued. “We will provide – for the first time – a 30% discount to local first-time buyers in almost every development built in the country.”
He also pledged that renters’ deposits would be ported every time they moved in a new government-backed scheme.
Speaking afterwards to The Wokingham Paper, Mr Jenrick set out more details on these proposals, and how they could affect Wokingham borough residents, pledging to look at ways in which the planning system could be beefed up to protect residents, and the neighbourhood plans they create.
“We’ve also said that we’re going to be creating the first community right to oppose thoughtless and ugly development. So each community will be able to produce a design code which is then properly legally embedded within the planning system, and will enable an area to say what type of architecture they want, how many parking spaces they want, whether the street should be lined with trees, things that actually matter to people in their everyday lives.
“That will be now part of the planning system and residents will be able to object to planning applications if those things are not carried through by thoughtless national developers who are building new developments in keeping with community.
“But,” he continued, “we have to strike the right balance between getting homes built, and respecting communities’ wishes because all of us wants to live in a country where young people can get on the housing ladder and can enjoy all of the pride and sense of security that comes with owning your own property.”
He added: “Councils should be rigorously enforcing the rules on affordability to ensure the correct number affordable homes are on each development.
“We’ve made an important commitment in our Manifesto that we’re going to require developers to use their contributions on sites to provide homes at 30% discount to local first-time buyers.
“I think that will build a lot of goodwill from local residents for housing, if they know that a proportion of homes on every development are going to be sold to them or to their children or grandchildren, at a one third discount, and that’ll be the first time that’s happened in the planning system.
“It will be particularly relevant in the south east where there’s such acute affordability issues, and young people and key workers like nurses and teachers, understandably, are struggling to get homes in areas that they’ve grown up in or they put down roots.”
Mr Jenrick said that the funding would come from developers’ contributions.
“Local areas will have a choice, whether they want to have those developers contributions going towards new homes for affordable rent or to be sold at one third discounts to local residents,” he explained.
“Where section 106 funding is going towards housing, there will be a choice for local areas where they want to deploy that towards affordable homes for rent, homes that are sold to housing associations, for example, or whether those properties are sold at a one-third discount to local residents.
“I think if you were living in a town or a village and a large development was proposed on the outskirts of your community, it would be a significant benefit to your area.”
The threat of overdevelopment looms large over Wokingham borough, with the mooted schemes at Twyford, Grazeley and Barkham Square. While Mr Jenrick couldn’t comment on them because, as secretary of state, he has ultimate responsibility for planning decisions, he was keen to emphasise that the Conservative manifesto had an emphasis on the greenbelt.
“If anything, we will be trying to enhance the green belt, finding ways in which we can increase biodiversity, improve hedgerows and woodland and protect historic woodland and trees,” he said.
“It’s going to be a legal presumption in the planning system that any new development should be tree-lined, because I think that they could contribute to, you know, the look and feel of our community. gives better air quality, and helps our mental health and so we expect to see hundreds of thousands of new trees planted on developments across the country in the years ahead.”
Craig Morley, the Conservative candidate for Reading East, was at the event.
He said: “It was fantastic to have Matt Hancock and Robert Jenrick here talking about the announcements that we’ve got for the south east, and particularly for Reading more police on the streets, rebuilding the Royal Berkshire Hospital, more money for the NHS overall, more doctors and nurses being hired. And revamping our planning laws to making sure that it’s easier for young people to get on the housing ladder.
“It’s fantastic for them to be here to see that, you know, Reading is a vibrant and growing economy the fastest in the UK and it shows great support for the campaign that we are running here in Reading East.”