Build social housing instead of flat blocks

Barely a week goes by without the SA running at least one article about shops being converted into flats, especially in the Swindon town centre.

Apparently, this Tory government is well up for this as top minister, Michael Gove, supports the move, so I expect the town’s two MPs to be likewise.

The country is in the middle of a housing crisis, with this government never having lived up to its promises to build 300,00 homes for each of its thirteen years in office.

Building social houses for rent never was going to be their priority, and if the speed at which the relatively small number of such homes are emerging along Queens Drive is anything to go by (149 in more than three years), it never will be.

Converting redundant shops into homes is a fine use of recycling brownfield sites. However, the concept was promulgated by the Tories when High Streets were buoyant and only a few shop sites were so reused.

But now, with retail parks and working from home, it will mean that large swaths of town centres will become ‘flat cities’.

Said minister seemed quite comfortable with the floor space for new homes shrinking as time goes on. In my experience, new homes hardly have room to move around in and many cannot grow a lawn in their back garden as the homes are so close together that no sunlight reaches the ground.

When our town was planned with its ‘urban villages’, schools and open spaces, people and families had space to move about and were distanced from each other.

Now, with flats on top of each other, it will mean that people will not have space to breathe which in my view will cause urban tension.

On a very simple practical level, where will new schools in the town centre be built when the flat dwellers have the families?

Will generations of children have to be bussed to out of town schools and any kick-about spaces will be behind chain link fencing? West Side Story springs to mind.

Of course, the council could pre-empt this scenario by buying up a retail park and converting the land into a school. The council has neither the personnel nor the money to perform such a bold idea.

Not surprisingly, as over the tenure of this Tory government it has restricted monies which should be ear-marked for local projects ever since they came to power, so these dreams will have to be just that.

Bob Pixton,

Abney Moor,