MONMOUTHSHIRE – and especially the county town – is often thought of as wealthy, but there are significant numbers of households who can’t access a home because of high costs and low incomes. 

The damage that temporary or insecure homes do to the stability of families, children’s health, educational and life chances has an impact on all of us.       

The current proposals for new homes (for example, at Troy Yard in Monmouth), and the early review of Monmouth­shire County Council’s Local Development Plan, driven by the lack of momentum to develop new homes raise important issues.     

Planning for new homes gives us the opportunity to think about how we want our communities and localities to work for all.  Here are two examples:   

•The lack of access to affordable homes to rent or to buy, especially for younger people, makes it vital that the requirement for 30 per cent of new homes to be “affordable” housing should be seen as a minimum – not as a negotiable maximum.     

“Affordable” should mean within the reach of local households on low incomes, most of whom have little spare cash.     

This means homes to let at low rents (equivalent to those charged by, for example councils), with no requirement for a costly deposit to secure a tenancy; or the professional fees involved in buying into shared ownership.   

•Most of us enjoy living in neighbourhoods which mix owner-occupation, privately rented and housing association homes.     

The proposals for Troy Yard, for example, will physically concentrate the “affordable” homes in one part of the site – an approach which is out-dated and which has been discarded elsewhere, not least because it reinforces prejudices about perceived differences between households who rent, and those who buy.      In practice, the vast majority of households who live in “affordable” homes are either retired or in (albeit low-paid) work.   

I would urge the planners, the town council, Cllr Bob Greenland and his Cabinet colleagues at MCC, and AM Nick Ramsay to tell us how they intend to address these important issues at local, county and Assembly levels.

– Patrick Harkness,  member, Monmouthshire Const­ituency Labour Party.