Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 14 October 2010

Will the new town at Sherford ever be built? The answer is probably yes, but I have no idea when.
As I understand it, Redtree, the potential town-builders, are still locked in negotiations with the South Hams planners. Quite understandably, given the current state of the housing and financial markets, Redtree are seeking to reduce the upfront costs of the infrastructure. Equally understandably, SHDC are saying that they are not prepared to compromise on the amenities and standards which make this proposal just about acceptable to local communities. I support them on this firm stance. And there the talks remain: deadlock.
I have no idea what financial pressure the developer is under, but they must have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to date, maybe millions, and so far have not got a penny piece back. I imagine that their financial backers are not prepared to proceed unless the initial costs are reduced – I have no inside information, just making an educated guess.
One of the most important pieces of information on this project recently was the announcement that average house prices are still falling. This is hardly likely to encourage a would-be investor of millions to write a cheque to build this new town out right now, when future returns remain uncertain.
Nobody would much mind about his, because few of us wanted this new town anyway, except for three rather important points. First, we still have a crisis of affordable homes locally, both to buy and to rent, and that is unlikely to change.  We are fortunate to live in the most attractive corner of the best country on the planet and the increasing number of people wishing to live and work and retire down our way will maintain upward pressure on prices. We have to solve this affordability problem one day.
Second, future transportation upgrades (substantial improvements to Deep Lane, and the A379 into Plymouth) are dependent on Sherford happening. As far as I know there is no plan B to come up with these capital costs.
Third, as I have mentioned before, there is a risk that if this significant portion of the local development plan does not happen, other developers will swoop and obtain planning permissions (on appeal) to build hundreds of houses elsewhere on Plymouth's fringe, without the infrastructure or amenities to support them. We have been this way before.
Chronic uncertainty is unhelpful, but I can see no immediate solution.

posted by Gary @ 09:56