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How would Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayoral candidates boost the economy and solve the region's housing crisis?

Terraced housing in Cambridge
Terraced housing in Cambridge

Which combined authority mayor candidate will you vote for?

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor candidates
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor candidates

On May 4, voters will go to the polls to elect the first mayor of a new Combined Authority for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

He or she will play a key role in driving the local economy, improving services and influencing the Government.

While the region’s housing crisis hits businesses, how can the new mayor make the region appealing to talented workers and boost economic growth?

We asked each of the candidates what they would do.

Conservatives, James Palmer

Let’s face the facts: our housing market is broken. We haven’t been building enough homes for decades and it’s led to house prices growing faster than incomes and spiralling rent increases hitting families across our county.

It’s time to turn this around and build on the success of developments like the picturesque village of Cambourne and the growing community in Hampton. I want to help deliver the homes we need to meet demand, encourage investment and boost opportunities for everyone in our county.

More than anything, we have to build houses for local, hard-working people. Community Land Trusts will play a part in my vision to help meet our housing needs, but there will need to be many strings to the bow. Under my leadership of East Cambridgeshire District Council, we’ve provided advice to communities wanting to build homes to meet local demand. As a result, the Manor Farm development in Stretham will deliver 75 homes to the community, 23 of which will be owned by the community and affordable in perpetuity. We have plans for 350 trust houses to be built – they are built in conjunction with local people, they are for people on lower wages and they do not cost the taxpayer anything.

If elected as the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in May, I will work with councils, community groups and MPs to make a plan to deal with the housing pressures across our region. Only then we can tackle the next, most frustrating, barrier in our housing market: the speed at which the homes are built once planning permission is granted.

We will invest in making the planning system more open and accessible, improve the co-ordination of public investment in infrastructure, support timely connections to utilities and tackle unnecessary delays by giving councils and developers the tools they need to build more swiftly.

I won’t shy away from tackling the issues facing our housing market, but I know it won’t be a quick or easy fix. I’m confident the situation in our region can be turned around.

Labour, Kevin Price

Tackling poverty and inequality across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is the measure on which the success of the mayor must be judged.

We are a high-growth region and an economic powerhouse for the UK, but that economic growth risks leaving thousands of families even further behind because of our housing affordability crisis.

The mayor must intervene directly in housing to counter the huge rise in homelessness across our area since 2010 and the rising number of in-work households in poverty due to high housing costs.

I want to break the stranglehold that the Conservatives’ poor national housing policy has had on councils and housing associations by making the term ‘affordable housing’ almost meaningless and directing most funding away from social rented homes.

As mayor, I will act immediately to use the powers in the Devolution Deal, firstly to define ‘affordable’ as a household spending no more than a third of its gross annual household income on housing costs, and secondly, to set a local framework for allocating devolution housing funding to housing associations or councils which will prioritise building homes to rent at Local Housing Allowance levels. I will also set up a Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Fairness Commission, which will include examining the role of housing in health, wealth, education and skills inequality.

As deputy leader of Cambridge City Council, I already have a record of delivering new, genuinely affordable council homes and of standing up for this region to the Government and securing a landmark housing Devolution Deal of £70,000,000 for new council homes in Cambridge and £100,000,000 for housing association homes across the whole area.

Liberal Democrats, Rod Cantrill

As I listen to people across Cambridge, they tell me they are concerned about the cost of housing. Not only buying a house, but also being able to afford to rent one in the city.

As a result, people are being forced to live outside the city, away from their family and where they work. They are having to spend far too much time commuting, causing a negative impact on family life.

Many young people, like my children and their friends, cannot afford to live in the area where they grew up. As a trustee of Wintercomfort for the homeless, I understand what it is like not to have a home and the impact that has on someone’s life.

As mayor, I will provide a strong voice for everyone across our region, delivering sustainable communities based on creating jobs close to where people live.

It’s essential that we provide vital infrastructure – such as doctors’ surgeries, high-speed broadband and good public transport – to build proper communities.

If elected, I will use my business background, knowledge and experience as a Cambridge city councillor to deliver the much-needed social (500 under the current devolved proposals) and affordable houses within Cambridge and beyond.

As part of this plan, I will explore the use of a local living rent for new affordable houses, where rent is set at one-third of a person’s income rather than a discount to the market rent.

Together, I believe we can change the way politics works for local communities nd deliver high-quality affordable homes for everyone across the region.

UK Independence Party, Paul Bullen

Our services cannot cope with rising numbers of people coming to live here. I will reduce the pressure on housing by opposing open-door immigration and provide incentives to reuse empty homes.

The Government is riding roughshod over local people’s wishes with mass housebuilding that has become a ‘Developer’s Charter’ without the services and infrastructure to go with it. It’s time to bring back power to the people. Major decisions should be subject to a local vote.

Social housing and affordable homes should be prioritised for local people and veterans, but our green spaces should be protected. I will do all that I can to protect food security and farming.

I will direct new housing to brownfield sites wherever possible and will not allow any special treatment for groups such as travellers.

New housing must be affordable as our children find it more difficult to buy or rent as costs escalate. I will ensure that all new housing built in Cambridgeshire, and commissioned by the mayor, will be social housing for our young and old alike.

I will not increase business rates or impose a mayoral precept on council tax payers; we pay too much tax as it is. I will reduce tax and business costs to stimulate the local economy and I will make it easier for smaller and local businesses to tender for local authority contracts.

Green Party, Julie Howell

House prices in our region have sky-rocketed, while the provision of council housing and truly affordable housing has failed to meet local needs.

I would:

■ Create a community landbank, whereby communities can bid to ensure that certain open spaces remain green spaces for grazing etc. to encourage biodiversity.

■ Work collaboratively with the National Housing Federation and local housing associations to build homes for people who need good-quality rented homes and specialist housing for older and disabled people.

■ Encourage local councils to adopt the Passive House standard for domestic developments in their local plans as doing so will improve thermal comfort, energy efficiency and air quality and help to reduce fuel poverty.

The nurturing of local SMEs and co-ops in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will help to strengthen our economy.

I would:

■ Employ an enterprise champion, whose job it will be to promote SMEs across the county.

■ Encourage districts to offer subsidised retail or commercial premises along our high streets for start-ups to develop ideas and products and undertake market testing.

■ Investigate a ‘supermarket levy’ to be applied to large chains in out-of-town shopping centres to help our high streets flourish.

Farmers play a special role in our region as the guardians of our natural environments.

I would:

■ Promote policies that enable the Greater Cambridgeshire Bio-region to become as self-reliant as possible. Local policies should promote measures and infrastructures that support small-scale and family farms selling to local people.

■ Encourage local food supply from local sources.

■ Ensure that in planning applications for mega-farms, adverse social impacts and the likely impact upon the viability of smaller farms are a material consideration.

Independent, Peter Dawe

The failure to balance housing, employment and infrastructure in Cambridgeshire has made it one of the most inequal places in the UK. Landowners and developers are exploiting the severe shortage of homes to make high profits. The rental market is similarly unbalanced, with landlords enjoying high rents and rapid capital appreciation, allowing them to buy yet more properties.

The only way we can make good affordable homes accessible to all is to radically change how we operate the housing market in Cambridgeshire.

n Build a homes factory that can make 20 homes a day to consistent high specification

n Build new towns that are service rich, reducing the need for travel, and can support high-quality transport connections to other urban areas

n Do not scatter unsustainable new homes across the county in green field sites.

n Sell Government-owned development land directly to the public, to ensure that building is rapid and not “gamed” by developers, and the people of Cambridgeshire benefit from any gains.

n Make housing land available by a massive increase to planning permits

n Issue temporary permits for mobile homes on any development land not immediately used for construction

All deliverable. I have already commenced the plans for the homes factory in North Cambridgeshire. Planning permits are in the powers of local government, and new towns at Alconbury, Northstowe and Waterbeach are already on the drawing board. There is plenty of Government-owned land available in Cambridgeshire.

English Democrats, Stephen Goldspink

I will promote the many advantages for business that Cambridgeshire offers and build on existing initiatives to bring in high-value, high-wage industries wherever possible.

The £170million housing budget must be invested for maximum effect, and I expect a range of affordable housing projects to be put forward by councils. £70m of this is ring-fenced to Cambridge, so an immediate task for the mayor will be to secure additional funding to supplement the £100m for the rest of the county. One qualifying factor for funding allocation will be that councils will need to prove they are addressing the problem of empty homes. There are around 600,000 in England.

Councils can serve a compulsory purchase order on the property, serve improvement notices (to make the owner bring the property up to current housing standards), apply for an empty dwelling management order (which enables the council to take over the management of the property for up to 7 years), carry out remedial works and use the property to reduce housing need in the area, enforce sale of a property or carry out a demolition order (if it is beyond a returnable state of repair)? But generally they hardly use these powers.

As mayor, I will ensure the issue is effectively addressed in our county, as it is a scandal that a serious housing shortage exists and there are so many homeless people. The need to build could be greatly reduced if councils were effective in tackling empty properties.

Still not decided: Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor candidates - who will get your vote?

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