Housing & Planning – what can we do?

Councillor Pippa Goldfinger

Like many places across the UK Frome has a housing crisis relating to af-fordability. The National Planning Policy Framework has allowed developers to shirk their responsibilities to provide affordable housing whilst making huge profits.

Housing and Planning is one of the hardest nuts to crack if you’re not the Housing or Planning Authority. Frome Town Council’s Planning Advisory Group works hard to promote good design, listen to residents concerns and negoti-ates to achieve the best outcomes for developments it may not have approved of. Frome produced a Neighbourhood Plan which grew out of a Community Plan for the town but the pace of consultation, review and iteration has been slow and frustrating.

Lobbying groups such as Frome Fair Housing have shone a light on the lack of affordability within the town and with help from the town council are examining fair rent scheme and other initiatives to help tackle the rental sector.

It now seems that the best way to tackle issues around planning and housing is to get ahead of the curve of developments and look at ways of promoting what we (the town) want from development rather than simply resisting what we think will be damaging for the town. Another way round the planning system is to subvert the process and produce something that benefits the community.

Nearby, two examples of alternative approaches have caught our attention. In Bruton the town council have accepted the housing numbers allocated to them but have taught to shape the type and location of housing they want to see in the town. In Knowle West they’ve subverted the planning system by creating a transportable home model that can densify a neighbourhood with minimal disruption.

Both examples show the type of flexible thinking that can address the housing demand within parish council constraints.

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