Comment: Mark Lancaster backs First Buy scheme

Milton Keynes is a growing city
Milton Keynes is a growing city

THE recent census results highlighted a 15 per cent increase in population growth over the past 10 years in our city. This saw Milton Keynes grow faster than any other place in the country, a remarkable statistic but one with real practical consequences considering the predicted growth for the future as well.

Many of you may be aware of the campaign I have run both locally and nationally, ‘I before E’ or for those less familiar with it, ‘Infrastructure before Expansion’. Considering our rapid rate of expansion it is essential that we continue to focus on the infrastructure needed in order to support the expected growth. Be this through ensuring we have enough school places ready or even making sure our roads are in a good enough state to support the increased usage, we must pay attention to it.

I am encouraged that the current administration at the council are taking this so seriously and have supported the theory of ‘I before E’, with action by pledging £50million to improve existing infrastructure for our future.

However, I know there has been some concern expressed locally by the recent government announcements around planning. In particular it seems that there are some in our community who feel the removal of restrictions on house builders may lead to houses being built where we aren’t expecting them to be built.

Many of you will know about the development which would have seen 4,000 houses east of the M1 built into the regional spaitial strategy. I successfully forced the last Government to remove it from the strategy becuase we simply didn’t have the infrastructure in place locally to support a development of that size.

With this in mind, I would like to offer assurances that having fought so hard against the last Government, the new rules will not see houses being forced on us again. The policy has been introduced to try and spark growth, but in areas of existing growth such as here in Milton Keynes it will not be allowed to spiral out of control and the key ‘I before E’ principles will be abided by. I hope this will calm some nerves as to the implication the national policy will have on us here locally.

Announced at the same time, was a further £280 million allocated for the First Buy scheme. The scheme was designed for people wishing to purchase their first home. It offers 16,500 first time buyers the option to put down only five per cent of the value of the house as a deposit, enabling people who could never before own a house be able too. The Government underwrites 20 per cent of the value of the house and shared equity is used to ensure it is never defaulted on.

The First Buy scheme is specifically for new builds so will be particularly relevant in Milton Keynes, as new houses continue to be built. Considering the difficulty many are facing while they try and make their way onto the property ladder I am a real fan of this scheme as it gives many who could before only aspire to buy a house, instead of rent.

At an important time for Milton Keynes it is important that we continue to look forward and push for sensible, responsible development. While it is the council’s responsibility to plan the city, I look on with interest and with First Buy schemes coming through to the forefront I am hopeful that our city will continue to thrive and help support future generations.

> Mark Lancaster is the MP for Milton Keynes North