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Help to buy Scheme boosts house builders' profits, enabling unethical planning permissions.

By Kathleen De-Vall, 12 January 2023                                                                                                                                            

The 8.5bn Help to Buy Scheme should be benefiting first-time buyers, by offering them a 20% interest-free loan to buy a new build home, but in reality, it is the house builders and MPs associated with them that are benefiting in annual compensations of thousands of pounds.  

The winners of the Help to Buy Scheme are not the homeless or the first-time buyer but the government officials and construction companies, could there be a link to how housing permissions have been granted that may not otherwise of been passed?

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Image from new homes website 

Across the UK there is no doubt that there is a shortage of affordable good quality housing and this has played a major part in homelessness. According to The Big Issue, there are around 230,000 people in the UK without a place to call their own.

What needs to be investigated is who is really benefiting from £851 bn worth of taxpayers' money from the Help to Buy Scheme, as this is not solving the long-term problem of a housing shortage or ensuring that taxpayers' money is being used effectively, it only enables people with a 5% deposit to get a 20% interest-free loan to buy a brand-new house.

The investment of the Help to buy Scheme was set up in 2013 by George Osbourne and since then has been implemented by Rishi Sunak in 2016. During the duration of the set-up and implementation of this scheme, there have been tory members sitting in the House of Commons and the House of Lords that are non-executive board members on one of the largest house builders in the country. Angela Knight who has links with the HM Treasury has earned £60,000 compensation from her role as a non-executive director.

Baron Jitesh Gadhia who is also a non-executive director at Taylor Wimpey receives an annual fee of £65,000 and has £100,000 worth of shares in Taylor Wimpey. Jitesh Gadhia is also a member of the House of Lords and has recently been appointed as a non-executive director at the Bank of England Court which is responsible for setting out the key strategy for decision-making. Permission homes along with Taylor Wimpey have made in excess of £8milion each in profits in 2018 from the Help to buy Scheme.

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Sound barrier wall built by Taylor Wimpey for the Todds Green Franklin Park Development.

Images by Kathleen De-Vall

In Stevenage Hertfordshire in 2020, a Taylor Wimpy housing development called Franklin Park was built and for this development, a sound barrier wall has been erected, this far from seamlessly blending into the countryside, the clear link between the government officials and unsightly planning permissions is standing nine meters tall along the A1M in Hertfordshire.

The housing development has 133 new build dwellings, 42% of Taylor Wimpey's sales have been sold under the Help-to-Buy Scheme there is a strong possibility that Franklin Park 

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  Franklin Park Image by Kathleen De-Vall

properties have been sold through this incentive, which could indicate that there is a strong connection between the £851bn the government has set aside for the Help-to-Buy Scheme and this money is lining the pockets of already wealthy housing developers.

The issue here is that the scheme is not dealing with homelessness in the UK today as the people that have the opportunity to buy a new house under this scheme need to have a well-paid job and financial stability.

Franklin Park is one of many developments across the country that has been given planning permission the issue with this development, In particular, is that a hideous sound barrier has been erected in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside, has this been passed because Taylor 

Wimpey has a member of the House of Lords and did have an MP on the board of non-executive directors?

Nicholas Anderson a local resident has been speaking to the council about the planning permissions granted to Taylor Wimpey by Stevenage Borough Council he states:

 “What was originally proposed was an eco-barrier that would have absorbed the noise and would have been more ecological. It’s the planning officers and the labour councillor Sharon Taylor that have allowed this mistake, not Taylor Wimpey. Although, Taylor Wimpey allowed the residents of Franklin Park to move in before they fully discharged the pre-occupation planning conditions. This is an ongoing potential Legal case looking into how the planning permission of this eco wall/sound barrier was ever given the go head.”

 

When asking another Symonds Green resident Tanya Bellringer, have you tried to speak to Stevenage Borough Council about your concerns?

“ Yes I have tried, I think the wall is a terrible blot on the landscape I have lived in Symonds Green for over 20 years and as a local resident; I have had no response from the council about the supposed eco-barrier.”

Do you think that Sharon Taylor your local MP been able to make a difference and found out

information for you?

“I think that Sharon is part of the problem in allowing this unethical planning to go ahead and since she has now been working in the House of Lords we hear nothing from her at all, it’s disgusting as it’s us the local residents that hear the noise from the motorway and cannot keep our windows open during hot summers.”

Tanya has created a Facebook page called The Heart of Symonds Green, where residents can air their grievances about the noise barrier. On this forum Nicholas Anderson has been sharing his investigation into the planning permission for the sound barrier/eco barrier he put a freedom of information request to the council about the noise the barrier is reflecting back to Symonds Green residents and this was the outcome, Anderson states the council response was:

“No noise measurement was taken to validate the accuracy of the noise model, the area coverage of the model seems very limited and does not cover all areas that could be impacted, it also seeks to play down the impact of the reflective noise by saying it will be lower it has to travel additional distance from the source to bounce off the barrier, about 50m.”

Further to this complaint Anderson has contacted the Government and Social Care Ombudsman to further carry out an investigation into the reflective noise that the sound barrier is causing and to question how a wooden sound barrier was erected rather than the acoustic eco barrier that was first passed. 

 

About residents' response

The residents of Todds Green, Symonds Green and Fishers Green have not been considered in the plans for Franklin Park the sound barrier is unsightly and not in keeping with the area, there is also an environmental issue here of the number of trees that have been cut down to build the wall perhaps planting trees would have been a more suitable way of controlling the noise from the motorway and been more environmentally friendly.

In contacting the planning department of Stevenage Borough Council Linda Sparrows senior planning officer declined to comment and passed me on to their communications team.

There is a wider issue here as currently, due to the war in Ukraine and the fallout from Covid, the UK is going into the largest recession since the 80s and with a failing NHS the money could be better spent on giving the staff the 19% pay rise that they are asking for. This would help to keep the health care services going that save so many lives, this would value the hard-working NHS Staff and benefit everyone.

There is a real sense that taxpayers' money is benefiting the wrong people and making already wealthy MPs and house developers richer while compromising already overstretched services and overlooking the needs of hard-working civil servants by not increasing salaries in line with inflation. Yet it would appear that £8bn can be set aside to line the pockets of already wealthy building companies this is not giving homes to the homeless that cannot afford the 5% deposit to be given the 20% interest-free loan in order to buy a newly built house.

The Taylor Wimpey, Franklin Park development is a local issue for the people of Stevenage but it is linked to a much bigger far-reaching problem of how government money is being spent and who actually benefits from taxpayers' money, of course, the matter in question of unsightly planning permission and direct government connections with building companies is concerning.

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