Why turn Penrith into a giant housing estate?

Date: Monday 25th February 2019

QUIET, sparsely populated Eden is the fifth best place to live in the UK, so it begs the question why our council wants to turn Penrith into a giant housing estate with equally giant business and leisure parks.

The New Squares development has been a disaster, yet no independent scrutiny has been carried out as to the reason, and Center Parcs has failed in its promise of bringing footfall to the town. We should analyse our mistakes before we repeat them.

Traffic congestion is increasing. We need to dual the existing A66 eastbound and widen the dual carriageway from Junction 40 to Kemplay to three lanes before we build a new road behind the Beacon.

The housing situation in the area is desperate, but the plan to tackle it fundamentally flawed. What is being done to combat the problem of second homes which remain empty for much of the year and are an increasing issue in our villages?

We have an ageing population, yet there is a dearth of housing for older people who tie up family homes. Bungalows, sought by the over-50s, are often bought by non-locals retiring to the area. New-builds should have local occupancy restrictions and we need assisted living provision in every part of Eden.

There is no housing for disabled people, and single people are also ignored, unless they are young and want to rent a flat in town.

Family housing is often woefully inadequate. Why have ceiling and door heights not changed in a century, despite each generation being taller than the last? Why have gardens shrunk? Why is there never any storage, despite the fact we have more stuff than ever? Why are garages so narrow that, once inside, you can’t open the car doors?

The policy of our council is to cram as many homes on to a piece of land as possible regardless whether they are fit for purpose. If we are not careful, in 40 years we’ll end up knocking all these inadequate homes down like we have the tower blocks built to fix the post-war housing crisis.

We need an independent housing need and projection survey. Using that data we should build homes for local people with vision and innovation so that we have housing that is fit for modern purpose.

And let’s use our existing infrastructure such as the A6 northwards, either side of which could accommodate new housing, before decimating the iconic view of Penrith from every approach.

There is no demonstrable need for the Penrith masterplan, and need should be at the heart of local development.