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Column 8th January 2020

What's the balance between infrastructure, affordability and profit?

Last week I wrote about the 7,000 new homes planned and the 1,500 already built without any significant increase in infrastructure.

There is some infrastructure in the plans: three new primary schools and a secondary school and money for sports and leisure facilities as well as some money for organisations such as the Wantage Independent Advice Centre and the Street Pastors.

But this money won’t be available until many more new homes are built and then, according to the District Council, recipients of funding have to prove that the benefits of the money will be for the residents of the new developments.

It’s already difficult enough to get the new schools built – approval is required from the Department of Education and although they have approved the building of a new primary school on Crab Hill, they haven’t approved plans for a “Through” school (from 3 to 18 years) on Grove Airfield and so a secondary school is unlikely to be built around here for years.

There isn’t enough funding for a new leisure centre and there hasn’t been any significant investment in our existing leisure centre in the last decade; that is unlikely to change.

The Wantage Football Club is having to jump through all kinds of hoops to get the money which should be available to build their new all-weather pitch.

The Government is also changing the rules on how any contributions from new developments will be spent in future.

They have pledged to offer local people and key workers discounts of “at least 30 per cent” on new homes and the discounts on the houses will remain “in perpetuity”.

This sounds great until you work out how this will be paid for.

The discounts will be funded by section 106 contributions currently paid by developers for local infrastructure.

So any infrastructure needed by all these people who are buying new homes won’t be there because it has to be spent on homes for key workers.

We know that housing is totally unaffordable around this area and schools, hospitals, care homes and other social services can’t get staff because people can’t afford to live here and do those jobs.

Of course, the land owners will still get huge premiums for selling the land and developers will continue to pay huge bonuses to the directors and make extraordinary profits.

There has to be a better balance between profit, infrastructure and affordability.


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