Houses vs Housing

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The plan to redevelop Filton airport took a step closer to becoming a reality last month, when the site was sold on to a Malaysian development group. However, all is not well. I believe that as a general rule, where there are town planners, there are problems – and Filton seems to be no exception.

The scheme’s biggest problem is Bristol City Council’s reluctance to accept the fact that building some 2,675 houses on the edge of the city might create an enormous strain on the already congested roads that lead into the city. Indeed, the faceless planners in city hall recently decided that there was no point in re-opening the nearby Henbury loop railway line, which would have at least tempered the worst effects of building this prosthetic housing estate on the Bristol’s periphery. It’s as though they have forgotten that the neat boxes pencilled onto their maps are to become real houses, for real people.

As the South West, and indeed the whole country, faces up to the housing crisis, it’s important that those who pull the levers of power take a step back and start thinking in terms of houses, rather than ‘housing’ – a mere instrument to make statistics look better. And if this sentimentalist plea isn’t bringing a tear to the eye of those in city hall, then perhaps they ought to consider the financial aspect of building homes unfit for life. The last time this was done on a large scale was in the 1960s, and needless to say it was not a successful exercise – most of what remains of this ill-planned post war brutalism is now only an artistic relic, the rest has rightfully been demolished.

So, in learning the lessons from our recent past, here is our great housing challenge: Can we really afford to go cheap on housing if we’re only going to tear it down 40 years later?