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Village launches low-cost housing bid

by michael - 18:29 on 03 July 2007

Village launches low-cost housing bid


Reprinted by kind permission of

02 July 2007 10:55

With the average house price in Caston around the £250,000 mark it is unsurprising that the community is fighting for more affordable homes.

The village outside Watton is littered with stories of people who have grown up there being forced out of their community because they can not afford to buy a house.

Now its residents have started a campaign for more starter homes that is backing proposals to build four low-cost two bedroom houses in the village.

Leading the drive is Beth Robertson, 21, who says these new homes are the only chance her and her partner David Becks, 29, have of being able to stay in the village where they were raised.

Some just want a way to get back, 39-year-old Paul Tennant had to move out of the council house he grew up in in Caston after his mother died in January last year.

Miss Robertson said she had collected more than 80 signatures from the village in support of the new development.

She said: "The young people of the village are never going to have a chance to stay around here, which is why everyone is so keen on these plans.

"When my family move next year I would like to stay with my boyfriend in Caston but unless we get some reasonably priced homes for first time buyers there is no way we could afford it.

"I think it's in the village's interest because people who have grown up in the village and know each other generally have more of an interest
in getting involved with the community."

Mr Tennant said: "When my mum died I was given a month to move out and there was no way I could afford to, so not only did I lose my mum but I had to move away from my home of 38-years.

"People who are born in the village are being forced out and it is being taken over by people from London because they are the only ones who can afford to buy here.

"I hope these houses are built so I get a chance to move back."

Ian Jessett is managing director of Walnut Farm Developments, the business that wants to build the four homes on a garden plot in North Acre in Caston.

He said the company would be pleased to help young people in the village on to the housing ladder by selling the homes for about 20pc below the market value, probably at about £110,000.

Caston Parish Council will discuss the plans for the four starter homes at a meeting today at 7.30pm at Caston Village Hall.

I can report that the chairman suspended the parish council meeting in order for the developer, Mr Jessett who was present, to make a statement regarding the development and its aims.  As is proper, the councillors listened attentively but were unable to pass comment on the proposal without the actual plans being submitted for consideration.  Following Mr Jessett's statement the meeting was reconvened.

At the public participation that followed the meeting Mr Jessett was asked how it would be decided just who would be the lucky owners if more than four people applied for the four houses being built.  Mr Jessett indicated this had not as yet been decided.

If you have any further thoughts regarding this proposal or housing development in general within Caston Village then please add them on the form below and we'll publish them.

Comment from Georgina Rose at 13:57 on 04 July 2007.
I do feel sorry for the young couples who cannot afford to live in the village of Caston where they were brought up and had to move out of their houses once their parents died. It would be a good idea to build some of the cheaper properties so they can afford to buy them and move back to where they were born. But, would the price of the houses after being built stay in the same affordable price range for these couples? You see all over the country, houses that were meant for the first time buyers going up by leaps and bounds, so when the time comes to sell these properties the young couples cannot afford the asking price, and cannot move back to the village. I say go for it and hope to see a few younger couples back in the village. GOOD LUCK.
Comment from rob summers at 18:25 on 05 July 2007.
What a good idea. I think the plot in question at the moment looks a mess.
Why not kill two birds with one stone. There are buildings surrounding the site so it would not look out of place.
Comment from A Sceptic at 21:28 on 05 July 2007.
The only reason the developer is making this proposal is because he knows full well he will not get planning otherwise - in fact he probably won't get it anyway. Filling in along Northacre will change the whole aspect of this attractive country road turning it from a rural setting into an urban one. Breckland is against this and many would agree with this view.
Also, have things really changed that much over the years. When I first bought a property some 40 years ago, I had to move over 30 miles away from where my parents lived for the very same reasons that youngsters have to move away today - the houses were too expensive. In order to buy my first house, my fiance and I actually saved for five years with a building society, putting together 22% for a deposit. Had I not done so the building society would not have granted us a mortgage - they were actually rationed then.
I'm not so sure I have too much sympathy with this cause. If these young people really want a place of their own then perhaps they should try saving for it like we did and move to the cheapest area they can find, like we did. Properties are available for the price that this developer is offering - you just need to go and look for them.
There is also just one final point. If the houses are too expensive here then among the beneficiaries are the parents of the young people involved. Their property must have increased in value. Once the youngsters move away the parents can downsize and with part of the proceeds of their house value they can share it with their children enabling them to buy a property of their own.
Comment from Ron Keenes at 02:24 on 07 July 2007.
I personally think the idea of low cost housing is a step in the right direction to keep local communities together. If, as "A sceptic" suggests, the young people move away to find affordable housing, then this will only speed up the breakdown of communal village life, leading to anonymous housing areas, owned by anonymous people, who do not seem interested in furthering the survival of the traditional English village spirit. We are talking about only four homes here, not an urban sprawl. If the young people in question are forced to move away, then perhaps they would not be able to find adequate employment in that area, and it would also deprive this area of their work skills. We need to make every effort to keep the village spirit alive, likewise to use the local amenities, otherwise they will be lost forever. I applaud you, "A sceptic", for airing your views, as it needs both sides of the matter to be raised, to promote open discussion on the issues, thereby giving opportunity for everyone's opinions to be given, and I respect your views, but I wonder why you wish to be anonymous?
Comment from (Name left blank) at 10:46 on 07 July 2007.
Well said rocket I could not have put it better myself give them a chance. What the anonymous sceptic has forgotten is that society has changed not necessary for the better. Would the person in question like someone they know to move 30 miles away to somewhere they can afford where there are shootings, stabbings, rape, assaults and so on. It’s not a major development and would not look out of place. I wonder if the sceptic own home is original to the village
Comment from Anon at 13:06 on 08 July 2007.
I would rather see low-cost housing being built than some of these enormous monstrosities with little or no garden that are just an eyesore. How lovely too, to have young people and young families potentially moving in to provide some new life. We have a lot to offer in Caston but need some new blood.
Comment from Living in Caston at 16:10 on 09 July 2007.
It is very easy to initially disregard the comments that A Sceptic has made largely for two reasons. Firstly, it is nice to have an ideal of a lovely village with all ages living here in some kind of pastoral harmony.

Secondly, we probably all feel sorry for young people who are struggling to get on the housing ladder and without consideration of the implications, just building a few cheap houses eases our discomfort. But in the harsh world of reality, what A Sceptic is actually saying is logical, sensible, factual and shows greater perception than chasing a dream.

It's easy to chase a dream. Easy to believe something because we want it to be so, but sadly that has nothing at all to do with real life. If these cheap houses are built, how are they to be fairly sold? Why should a person from Caston have a greater right to live in a place where there is reduced risk of shooting, stabbing, rape, assault than say, a person in Stow Bedon or Griston or Watton? Surely we live in a state that demands equality and that state is governed by market forces, not sentimentality.

I have to agree with A Sceptic; when I wanted to move out of home it was a case of saving with a Building Society for some considerable time. Then persuading them that I and my intended wife were both a good financial bet as well as a stable couple. Mortgages weren't handed out that easily in those days. We couldn't afford to live in the town where our parents lived, nobody could who was just starting out. We had to buy in a less than pleasant area which was all we could afford, but we didn't stay there. We saved, we worked extra hours and we moved up and out.

That raises the second problem with cheap housing. It may be cheap when it's initially purchased, but within a very short space of time it will be worth a great deal more. That two bed terrace in Caston will, within a few months be worth a three bed terrace in Watton and will it then be sold cheaply to young couples? Of course it won't. It will be their step on the property ladder. Their chance to make a quick killing and buy bigger in exactly the same way as we have all done with the first properties that we bought. The difference though, is that the majority of us paid market value for them to start with and made money when the market went up and we could add savings to our investment.

This is not a move to allow young families and young people to stay in the village. It is an attempt by a small group of people who can't afford to buy a house here to be given something on the cheap that they can then sell on and make a profit. It will do nothing for the village despite the wonderful sentimentality that some of the writers express.

I have no problem with young families buying houses where ever they can afford to buy them, but our system works on buying what you can afford and if they can't afford Caston, buy where they can afford, as we all had to when we started out. I'd like to run a Bentley but I can't afford to buy one, would some kind person in the village come up with an "affordable" new Bentley for me? Is that sentimentality too far or do the same market forces apply - what you can't afford, you can't have!
Comment from A. Nimby at 07:56 on 12 July 2007.
What is Caston coming to? The vast majority of people living here do so because it is a village. If they wanted to live in a town, they would do so and yet now there are plans afoot to turn this pleasant village into some ugly sprawling urban development. I won’t repeat what has already most adequately been stated by A Sceptic and Anon other than to say I agree wholeheartedly with both.

Let’s look at the facts. If Breckland pass the proposed plans, then:
· One house at the end of Dukes Lane is to be demolished to make way for four.
· One house on The Street, namely the Hawthorns, is to be demolished to make way for two.
· A plot on Northacre, originally part of the grounds that belonged to a bungalow (and with no house on it at present as the developer hived this bit off when building the present house) is being proposed for another four.
· And will it stop there? No way! This will immediately open the way for anyone to come along and build even more houses along Northacre on the basis that if it’s okay for four then why not more.

It’s about time we said No, No, No. We’ve already got houses at the side of the Red Lion thereby depleting its gardens and more houses going up along Dukes Lane, we really do not need any more!

As for young people needing somewhere to live. A quick view of the local paper will reveal properties as cheap as £88,000 in Brandon – it’s only a short car ride away. And with a little less money being spent smoking and drinking, it’s quite affordable. There’s nothing wonderful about being born in a village, working one’s whole life in the same village, and then retiring in that very village without sampling the outside world. That’s what people did in the 1600’s. This is the 21st century and Great Britain is a great place to live. My advice to young people is to go and make the most of it without relying on hand outs.

Yesterday the Prime Minister announced more houses to be built but on brownfield sites. He will he said protect the green belt. Well said Gordon Brown!!
Comment from David Blincow at 08:36 on 19 July 2007.
I am reluctant to join the debate on so called low cost housing as I see it gradually creating a divide amongst the population of this village of ours that I have come to love and serve during the five years since we moved here; my wife returning to her native Norfolk. However, I feel it is an important matter that requires careful analytical consideration.

Firstly, I would comment that I think Ron Keenes note that people moving into the village have no interest in traditional English village life is at best misinformed. I can think of many residents who have moved into Caston recently who serve the village in many ways, assisting in the management of the Village Hall, setting up and running the Camera Club, assisting in the management of the WI, participating in village events such as scarecrow and open garden weekends, organising and conducting the Caston village appraisal and assisting in the running of the annual fete and dance but to mention a few. The fact that we are able to use this web site to conduct this debate is a result of the effort in setting up and dedication in the ongoing running by the webmaster who moved here just a few years ago.

So now to the question of considering so called low cost housing. I remain to be convinced that such a proposal is in the best interests of Caston or of those people who would seek to occupy the properties if developed.

Firstly, all people have the right in this country (with a few special exceptions) to live where they please. People who have been brought up in the village have no special right over any other person however desirable that may seem. Determining who should benefit from such low cost housing seems to me to be a potential minefield for animosity and legal wrangling. Unsuccessful hopefuls will undoubtedly claim discrimination and protracted lawsuits could result.

For better or for worse we live in a market economy where supply and demand dictate the price level of goods and services. Possibly sadly, housing is such an item and the price is determined by the desirability of the area and property and the number of people wishing to buy. Those with the means and wherewithal win – basic hard fact. History has shown that well meaning intervention in this system has only a short term effect and can cause imbalance. The proposal for low cost housing with covenanted ties on the purchasers may seem a good way forward but such ties, if effective, would mean that the owners will not be allowed to sell the property at a market price in future and that they are not in fact on “the housing ladder” as the price they would be allowed to sell the property at would leave them unable to buy any other similar home as the market would have inflated and they would have been left behind. Any tampering to negate that fact could be regarded as a “scam” and any requirement that future purchasers should be Caston born and bred would undoubtedly meet with legal challenges. Whilst at this time the aspiring purchasers may think they will be there for life there are no guarantees. It seems to me that they will be effectively trapped in their properties.

Considering the houses themselves and their possible effect on Caston I also foresee this being the small end of the wedge that could greatly change the nature and type of community Caston is. The proposal is effectively “infill” and has undoubtedly been proposed by the builder as a means to using a site where he has been refused planning for his original proposals. Such housing will be high density and of an “infill” nature. Should such a development be established then the precedent has been set for more high density, low cost (?) “infill” housing to be established. With the advent of the Caston mains sewage system shortly upon us there is little excuse to prevent such a building surge and before long Caston could have changed from a quiet rural village to a small town with possibly some of the problems alluded to by other contributors to this debate. The desirability of living in a small country community and the village life that many of us hold dear would be lost. Is this what we really want?

I have sympathy for those seeking affordable housing but I remain to hear a plausible persuading argument that will enable me to support such a scheme.

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