Great Bedwyn: another community in need of affordable homes - but what about its social housing?
The only additional homes to be built in Great Bedwyn ought to be "small 'affordable' ones".
This analysis comes from a Housing Needs Survey carried out by Wiltshire Council as part of Great Bedwyn's Neighbourhood Development Plan process. Just like the outcome of the Housing Needs Survey carried out independently for Marlborough's Neighbourhood Plan, this survey has clearly highlighted the need for more 'affordable' homes.
This analysis supports what Great Bedwyn Parish Council have previously told Wiltshire Council's planners.
Great Bedwyn has a special issue with current government policies on social housing. As Nick Wilkinson, who chairs the Great Bedwyn Neighbourhood Development Plan Working Group, explains:
"About twenty-one per cent of our residents are currently in social housing, a much higher proportion than the Wiltshire average of 14.7 per cent."
"The local stock of social housing is owned by four Housing Associations, but they have all been encouraged by national Government to see to those tenants who can afford to buy them, or [when they become empty] on the open market, and none of them intend to replace the sold stock with new homes in Great Bedwyn. So we will gradually have even fewer social homes available here."
The Government's recent freeing of Housing Associations to borrow to build will not help as they - even if they call themselves 'ethical housing developers and landlords' - will build where land is cheapest and returns highest. They are now intent on maximising profits.
The figures revealed by this Housing Needs Survey for Great Bedwyn are stark and underline the need for truly affordable homes. Wiltshire Council calculated the cost of an average one or two bedroom semi-detached home in the village to be £316,000.
To purchase at that price the survey says a buyer would need a deposit of £47,400 and a joint annual household income of £89,533 to cover the mortgage payments.
As at 2011, 42 per cent of Great Bedwyn residents had a household annual income of less than £40,000 - 27 per cent were less than £30,000 and 18 per cent were less than £20,000. Taking national figures, wages have not kept up with inflation since 2011.
Mr Wilkinson ends his report on a somewhat gloomy note: "What little space we have to build here must logically and demographically therefore be for homes as small and affordable as we can persuade public and private providers to make them."
"Setting up a local Community Land Trust would be the best way to achieve this and to perpetuate it. But a Parish Council call, some months ago in the Parish News, for volunteer local trustees to raise the money needed for that, alas found such volunteers."
This article is based largely on the report by Nick Wilkinson published in the November issue of the Parish News for Great Bedwyn, Little Bedwyn and St Katharine's.