The West needs a “Milton Keynes” new town to solve its housing crisis, a business leader has said.
Phil Smith, chief executive officer of economic development company GWE Business West, has made the controversial claim in an interview which has shocked groups campaigning to protect the countryside.
Mr Smith acknowledged the requirement for more new homes to meet the needs of West employers and potential inward investors.
“We need some serious planning about where the new towns are going to be – we need a new Milton Keynes. This is a serious problem and needs some radical planning of where people are going to live,” he said in the interview with Magnus Carter of the new online radio service, South West Business.
He said the problem for politicians to combat is Nimby resistance.
“The need for the South West to provide extra homes is passed around like a bad smell. People come down here to live and put up the drawbridge to further development,” said Mr Smith. “The regional economy is being stifled by the lack of affordable homes.”
He cited examples of major organisations that wanted to relocate to the Bristol area, but were deterred by the housing issue. “When they tried to move civil service offices out of London to the provinces a few years ago lots came to Bristol, liked what they saw, but decided they couldn’t afford to live here and went to Birmingham.
“If we are going to take on more people here and get more jobs and growth we need new houses somewhere.”
He said Bradley Stoke new town was unfortunately planned with lack of space but said: “We are going to have to encroach on green space. It is for local people, local councils to decide, not a regional level, I think that’s too big. But there have to be some bold decisions.”
But he admitted that making such decisions are difficult.
Communities across the West have risen in protest over major housing schemes which they believe are destroying greenfield land unnecessarily. Earlier this month hundreds of people packed into Blackbrook Leisure Centre at Taunton in a vain bid to stop Taunton Deane Borough Council approving development at Killams.
On Tuesday a three-week public enquiry opens at Yeovil into objections to South Somerset’s proposed local plan. Villagers at East Coker, home of poet T S Eliot’s ancestors, will speak at the hearings against proposals for an urban extension of Yeovil which they say will swamp the picturesque village. The council says the community will be protected by a buffer zone.
To hear Mr Smith’s interview in full, visit www.southwestbusinessnews.co.uk