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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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£5m to bring Cumbrian homes back into use

Cumbria is to receive nearly £5 million to help build new homes and bring empty ones back into use.

Wayne McKnight photo
Wayne McKnight

Housing Minister Kris Hopkins confirmed the £4.8m grant from this year’s New Homes Bonus payments.

Carlisle has been allocated more than £1.3m, Allerdale will receive nearly £800,000, Eden gets almost £600,000 and Copeland’s share is just over £470,000.

The bonus is calculated by the amount of new households each authority has gained over the last year.

Carlisle City Council says it gains extra households when new housing developments are built. But it loses them because of empty and demolished properties.

The council says it has lost millions of pounds more in central government grants than it gains from the New Homes Bonus.

As a result it has had to cut revenue budgets by £6.3m since the 2010-11 financial year.

Les Tickner, its portfolio holder for finance, said that its bonus, which covers a six-year period, will therefore be used to support frontline services, including the additional infrastructure needed to service new homes.

Wayne McKnight, of Carlisle-based developer McKnight & Son, believes Cumbria needs low-cost, family homes.

He said: “I definitely think there is a lack of affordable housing for people. Just look at the terrace houses – they never stay on the market for long.

“It’s the mid-range properties which are struggling to sell not the small family homes.”

More than £900m in New Homes Bonus payments will be shared among the 353 councils in England.

Since the scheme was launched three years ago more than £2bn has helped build 550,000 new homes and conversions, the government says. Of those 160,000 are classed as affordable.

And 93,000 empty homes have been brought back into use around the country.

Councils are free to use the funding as they see fit to benefit their local area – this can include providing new facilities, protecting frontline services or freezing council tax.

Carlisle City Council’s Local Plan will set out what might be built and where between 2015 and 2030.

Leaders had earmarked a figure of around 600 new homes a year as part of the plan. But they are now being urged to lift that figure to 665 to meet demand.

And according to Allerdale’s Local Plan, 181 affordable houses will need to be built every year to cope with a current backlog.

Mr Hopkins said getting Britain building new homes is vital not only to communities but to create new jobs and apprenticeships.

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