Affordable homes - Tories are talking ‘nonsense’

What a pity the Lewes Constituency Conservative Candidate for Parliament understands neither planning nor government policy (Sussex Express article, 20 June).

To quote Ms Caulfield “ ... Conservatives took action to get Britain building again and launched the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme. Thanks to these policies, 250 new affordable homes have now been delivered in Lewes”. This is arrant nonsense.

First, the ‘Help to Buy’ (HTB) scheme was launched in April 2013. So far as I have been able to ascertain from LDC statistics no affordable homes (absolutely none) were actually completed in Lewes District in the year 2013-2014, since the introduction of ‘HTB’. Only 77, not 250, applications were approved.

Second, even if the ‘HTB’ scheme had helped produce the affordable homes, which it hasn’t, there have been no successful ‘HTB’ applications by home-owners or first-time buyers in LDC area since the scheme was introduced. Ms Caulfield should look up Government statistics before speaking on things she doesn’t understand. No local people were helped, Ms Caulfield, as your article claims.

Third, planning decisions are not a party political matter. At Lewes District Council we have scrupulously kept party politics out of planning decisions, as most people in this area would expect.

Before starting this hare Ms Caulfield should have spoken to my opposite number on the Conservative side before making any claims about Tories delivering affordable houses in Lewes.

Most decisions are delegated to officers, and those that are not delegated are made democratically, not politically.

Perhaps the Conservative candidate is quoting houses built or approved by the LDC since 2010, but 250 is still not a number I recognise.

Numbers of affordable homes built in any year are rather at the whim of developers. If she wished to make comparisons of numbers approved in LDC, she would find that since 2010 there are actually fewer affordable homes approved (216) than in the previous four year Liberal Democrat period (254).

During the period the Conservatives have been in power, the completions per year has dropped from a three-year average of 46 to 44.

So even if these were a matter for political decision, which they are not, she is shooting herself in the foot because the number has declined under the Conservatives.

Finally, most affordable homes are not shared equity homes, so the ‘HTB’ scheme could only apply in future to less than 20 homes approved in LDC since April 2013, not 250 nor even 77, even if Ms Caulfield’s claim were remotely true.

So even if the ‘HTB scheme had been relevant to past approvals (it isn’t), and even if there had been 250 homes approved (there haven’t), and even if most affordable homes fell within the ‘HTB’ Scheme (they don’t), and even if there had been any approved personal ‘HTB’ applications in Lewes (there are none), Ms Caulfield is still wrong on her political claims, twice over.

Peter Gardiner

Liberal Democrat Shadow Lead Councillor for Planning