Urgent action needed on North East housebuilding as demand is twice of supply

Key figures say funding is needed to clean up brownfield sites and dormant housing stock should be brought into use

Roberta Blackman Woods, MP for Durham City
Roberta Blackman Woods, MP for Durham City

Urgent action is needed to transform housing in the North East as demand outstrips supply and development lags behind the rest of the UK, it is claimed.

Funding to clean-up brownfield sites is essential and dormant housing stock should speedily be brought into use, key figures warn, as data reveals demand for homes is now double the completion rate.

It comes as figures show that in 2012/13 the North East recorded 4,090 housing completions, well below the regional average of 11,800.

Roberta Blackman-Woods, Durham City MP and Shadow Communities Minister, pledged to focus on the ‘dysfunctional’ land market and said Compulsory Purchase Orders - a measure that forces bodies to free up land - should be an option for .

She added the Coalition’s scrapping of Labour’s ‘brownfield first’ programme meant that development of industrial land had fallen by 17%.

Speaking at a conference this week, Ms Blackman Woods she said Labour would create ‘new homes corporations’, which would assemble land and bring it forward for development by striking deals with councils and private landowners.

She said: “There are many barriers to development, particularly those caused by dysfunction in the land market.

“The Lyons Review identified stalled sites and not enough land coming forward for development as key sources of the chronic under-supply of new homes.”

NECC Policy Adviser, Rachel Travis, said Government the region needed to clean up brownfield sites for its housing market to flourish.

She said: “Housing developments delivered on brownfield sites often have significant local and community support and have the potential to revitalise and regenerated underused or vacant land, as well as providing much needed homes.

“If we are to maximise our region’s potential for development then we need strengthened public support to make brownfield sites viable, with funding identified specifically for this purpose.”

In South Tyneside, there are 16 brownfield sites with a total capacity for 1,500 homes.

Iain Malcolm, South Tyneside Council leader, said the authority, which is coping with severe budget cuts, was looking at “innovative solutions”.

He said: “South Tyneside Council is fully committed to supporting the delivery of new homes to meet the needs of our growing population.”

The council had released discounted, council-owned land and established the new not-for-profit South Tyneside Housing Ventures Trust to build homes for rent, shared ownership and sale.

Coun Malcolm added: “The viability of brownfield sites continues to be a challenge for us.”

The North East Chamber of Commerce said a lack of housebuilding was stifling growth as it announced, alongside law firm Watson Burton, the North East Housebuilding Report will be launched next week. It is being produced as the Coalition’s Help To Buy scheme sees demand grow.

Their survey revealed how 55% say the housing market is either under-performing or seriously under-performing.

NECC Director of Policy, Ross Smith, said: “A thriving and sustainable housing market is not simply about the number of homes provided, but also the degree to which they meet the needs and wants of customers.

“In the North East we have many unique and distinctive features that we should utilise to strengthen our housing offer. We have excellent quality of life, cutting edge energy-efficiency technologies and the ability to deliver good value for money with our housing.”

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