Residents of Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire will go to the polls on Thursday 4th May to vote for the new combined authority Metro Mayor.
The successful candidate will work with the three West of England councils to invest nearly £1billion into the region’s housing, transport, skills training and business support, along with other devolved powers.
Here, Conservative candidate Tim Bowles shares his plans for housing with the Bath Echo.
Housing is one of the biggest issues we face in the West of England – juggling that balance between our need for affordable homes with protecting our beautiful green spaces and making sure our roads, hospitals and schools can cope with new developments.
I live and work in the West of England and it’s clear that first-time buyers are finding it increasingly unaffordable to get on the property ladder. High rents too mean less disposable income or money to save for a deposit. And those who have managed to buy their first home are finding it hard to pay their mortgage, with less money to save for the future.
With average house prices at an all-time high nationally – costing almost eight times average earnings – ordinary working people are struggling to get by.
The Government has done much over the past seven years to slow the house price increase and make it easier for people to own or rent a safe, secure place of their own.
For example, last year a record number of planning permissions were granted while 190,000 new homes were completed – the highest level since the recession. And more people have got on the property ladder thanks to schemes like Help to Buy. But I agree with Ministers that more needs to be done.
The Government’s white paper on housing shows they are serious about breaking down the barriers caused by our broken housing market and building a fairer and stronger Britain – and so am I.
Only the Conservatives can be trusted to do this – Labour and the Lib Dems are out of step with the concerns of ordinary working people and can’t deliver the changes we need.
If elected as West of England Mayor I will prioritise housing in urban regeneration areas where demand is greatest, where better infrastructure exists, where there are strong employment opportunities and where new developments will boost regeneration.
In prioritising urban development over greenfield and greenbelt land, I will also make sure our housing allocations are fair, with a focus on supporting first-time buyers by creating affordable homes.
I am aware of the pressures on our rural areas in South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset and that’s why my message is clear – build in urban areas where there is demand and existing infrastructure and not in rural areas.
We all need the security to plan for the future and this is one of my starting points – building more homes in the right places. This will slow the increase in house prices and also bring down rents, giving ordinary working people the security they deserve.
The white paper also confirms the Government’s commitment to making the planning system more open and accessible, giving local councils and developers the tools they need to get building. And by diversifying the market we can support small independent builders and innovative construction methods.
If elected as West of England Mayor, I look forward to working with the Government and our local MPs to make this happen.
This is part of my vision for our region, so our children and grandchildren have the same life chances we have had, and I welcome our Government’s mission to make Britain a country that works for everyone.