Brendan Gibb-Gray is certainly not afraid of sticking his head above the parapet. The Emsworth councillor probably won’t be Mr Popular among some of his fellow residents for controversially breaking ranks and saying the town should accept the need to build affordable homes.
There will be those who moved there precisely because it is something of an enclave for the relatively well-off. They certainly won’t be happy at the thought of their picturesque environment being bespoiled, as they see it, by developers and the dreaded ‘social housing’.
But we think Cllr Gibb-Gray is spot on. Why should only a small number of people enjoy the benefits of living somewhere desirable like Emsworth?
Surely everybody realises by now that we need to build more homes in this country and that they have to go somewhere. All Cllr Gibb-Gray is saying is that there should be no exclusion zones based purely on the affluence of any given area.
At a time when one in seven children in the UK is homeless or badly housed, the ‘not in my back yard’ attitude towards development simply has to change.
Besides, building in the rural environs of Emsworth is nothing new. In the 1960s and ’70s, the town saw a surge in housebuilding – mostly on farmland.
Now there’s a pressing need for more building, this time for those who can’t afford the prices that many properties in Emsworth fetch.
Havant Borough Council has recently carried out a consultation on where 6,300 new homes should be built by 2026. Now councillors in Emsworth have been invited to say which potential sites are preferred in the interests of existing and future residents.
Simply saying no to any development is not the answer. As Cllr Gibb-Gray says: ‘If we don’t plan for new homes they may well be forced upon us by developer appeals, often on sites less preferred and without community benefits secured.’
Some may not like it one little bit, but he is absolutely right – and we commend him for being brave enough to tell it how it is.