Views From The Ground: West Ham and Labour’s Failing Housing Policy


In this first edition of ‘Views From The Ground’ Parliament Street hears from Festus Akinbusoye. Festus is the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for West Ham, East London. He argues that although an extremely important issue, building homes should not involve ignoring the concerns of existing local people. As is being seen in Labour run Newham.

The opportunity to stand for parliament in the area I grew up and spent all of my teenage years is truly an honour. That it is one of the safest seats of any political party in the United Kingdom hardly gives me sleepless nights, nor does the incredible historical ties of the area to the establishment of the Labour Party faze me at all. Afterall Kier Hardie, founding father of the Labour Party was first elected to parliament in the West Ham constituency.

Ironically, what is giving me real cause for concern is the swathe of building development taking place in my constituency at break neck speed – faster than residents are able to object and be heard. The wholly Labour run local authority of Newham at every turn insist it has followed every rule on consultation. Residents then find out about a massive 14 storey building going up just a few yards from their back garden. By the time they’re able to raise hundreds and in some cases – nearly 2000 objections; the planning application had already been approved. Business as usual continues.

Cue very angry residents and small businesses literally living in the shadows of a post-modern concrete ogre with quality of life blighted, house value plummeting and business declining. The latter is what happens when short-sighted planners close down a car park by a high street to make way for 250 flats – with no parking provision both for new build or businesses customers.

I could narrate tens of accounts where residents and local small businesses feel entirely side-lined in the name of house-building. What is rather staggering is that most of these flats are absolutely unaffordable and developers are able to bribe their way out of including affordable or social housing in the mix through Section 106 payments to the Local Authority. The latter, to the best of my knowledge, is under no legal obligation to use these monies to build affordable or social housing elsewhere.

 Surely this is wrong and must be changed! Local Authorities collecting S106 payments should be obliged to use the money for housing and nothing else. They should also be legally required to publish all such monies in full and explain what the money is used for – if not for housing development.

 Furthermore, I passionately believe that the rules on what constitute a public planning consultation on major projects need to change. Too many Councils are getting away with doing the “minimum legal requirement” in the area only for un-informed and less savvy residents being caught on the planning backfoot. A major planning consultation that results in say – anything less than a 20% response rate should be re-done. I believe it is just vital that such massive transformation of a local area should take people along, not take them for fools.

 I am not against development or regeneration – but I am categorically against blatant disregard of local residents’ views and the lack of financial transparency which seems rather common.

 Admittedly, London is changing and this will not stop. I just worry about what it is changing into when in a borough like Newham, where the Labour Party rules outright with an almighty Mayor at the helm; poor and vulnerable people are being swept aside, faith/community groups are being marginalised and small businesses are being side-lined to make way for big money developers. This is the Labour Party in action in one of the most vibrant, dynamic and yet most socially deprived boroughs in our country. I doubt it is alone in this category.

Learn more about Festus and the West Ham campaign here.

Views From The Ground aims to bring news and views from those fighting the campaign for a Conservative majority, on the ground.

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