One of the key factors that will change the way our town looks and feels in the years to come is where we build new housing and the type of housing it is. We need to assess and plan carefully to get the balance right and think ahead about the impact on traffic congestion, town parking, public transport and the number and location of schools that will be required. Since entering Parliament last year I have been lobbying hard for an easing of ‘Change of Use’ and assistance to be able to get vacant properties back into use so that we can see more residential properties in the town centre, which I believe will be a key part of regeneration and new life. I am also committed to building the right housing – particularly good quality social housing that will benefit local people, especially young people and help prevent further decline. We know that town centres are diminishing right across the country as footfall in shops continues to drop because of the convenience and ease of on-line shopping and the attraction of large, out-of-town retail parks. That means a rethink on how we manage those town centre spaces for the next generation whilst at the same time doing our best not to lose the heritage remaining.
The Government gets it. Boris Johnson said In his recent speech:
“As is the case now, buildings and land which fall within a particular use class will be able to change from one use to another without the need for planning permission. However, in order to respond to the needs of their local communities, I will create a new broad category of ‘commercial, business and service’ uses which will allow commercial, retail and leisure uses greater freedom to adapt to changing circumstances. This is particularly important for our town centres to ensure new uses can be readily accommodated. At the same time, I will also ensure valued community and learning uses are protected through the planning system, and we will also introduce a new permitted development right to support changes of use to residential so more new homes are delivered in our town centres.”
We will need to have safeguards in place to protect pubs and theatres for example, but we need to start creating a ‘buzz’ around the centre of town that will make it somewhere that people feel safe in and want to live and socialise there. Other towns and cities have shown it is possible with the right investment, and working as part of the Town Deal Board and the new Conservative Council I will play my part in delivering that for Great Grimsby. If we are not careful, the future will be more and yet more large housing developments in the villages around the Town coupled with clogged roads and on the other side of the coin a dead town centre, particularly at night-time.
I really want to hear residents' ideas and views on this. In particular I want to hear from young people who quite often tell me that "Grimsby is a dump". What do we need to do to change that over the next few years and make it a place where you want to stay and bring up a family?