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City MP blasts government planning reforms and “unsustainable” housing targets

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has criticised the government’s proposed planning reforms, which he says will force ‘unsustainable’ house-building targets on the City.

The government’s hated “Developers’ Charter” is set to hand control of planning decisions over to housebuilders and gag communities from speaking out against inappropriate developments in their area.

Mr Morgan has written to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick to raise concerns around the government’s inflated housing targets, which would see Portsmouth build 17,357 dwellings by 2038.

The City MP wrote: “Our city recognises the need to build more homes, but any delivery must be sustainable, integrated with the right infrastructure, and acknowledge the unique circumstances Portsmouth faces.”

In response, the Housing Minister committed to meet the Portsmouth South representative and local planners to discuss their concerns and deliver a more sustainable housing plan, but is yet to set a date for the meeting.

In June, Mr Morgan supported Labour’s proposals to protect local people’s right to object to individual planning applications in the House of Commons, after the Government announced plans to rip up the planning system in the Queen’s Speech.

The Government’s proposed reforms of the planning system will remove powers from elected local representatives and hand them to Whitehall-appointed boards of developers while doing nothing to solve the growing affordable housing crisis.

Boards will oversee a new zonal system that allows developers to build at will in areas designated for growth. Communities will be consulted only in the development of five-yearly local plans and will be gagged from intervening in individual planning applications.

Conservative Ministers have claimed that the reforms are needed to speed up housebuilding, even though over one million planning permissions have not been built out in the last decade.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“The government’s inflated housing targets are totally unsustainable for our densely populated City. They risk overwhelming local infrastructure and endangering our treasured natural environments. 

“The Minister’s empty promises of a meeting speak volumes, but I’ll fight to make sure local voices are heard.

“I want to see a flexible planning system that delivers the homes we need while placing local people at the centre of decisions that affect our City.

“Algorithms and formulas can never be a substitute for local knowledge and decision-making by councils and communities who know their area best.”

 

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Local MP votes to block Developers’ Charter and protect Portsmouth residents’ right to be heard in planning decisions

Stephen Morgan MP has voted in the House of Commons to block the hated Developers’ Charter, a Government plan to hand control over planning decisions to developers and gag communities from speaking out against inappropriate developments in their area.

In an Opposition Day Debate on Monday, the Official Opposition called a vote to protect local people’s right to object to individual planning applications, after the Government announced plans to rip up the planning system in the Queen’s Speech.

The Government’s proposed reforms of the planning system will remove powers from elected local representatives and hand them to Whitehall-appointed boards of developers while doing nothing to solve the growing affordable housing crisis.

Boards will oversee a new zonal system that allows developers to build at will in areas designated for growth.

Communities will be consulted only in the development of five-yearly local plans and will be stopped from intervening in individual planning applications.

Conservative Ministers have claimed that the reforms are needed to speed up housebuilding, even though over one million planning permissions have not been built out in the last decade.

Conservative MPs have repeatedly signalled their opposition to the reforms, expressing fears about the party’s cosy relationship with developers.

The Conservative Party received £11 million in donations from developers in Boris Johnson’s first year as Prime Minister and £891,000 from developers in the first three months of 2021 alone.

The latest action in the House of Commons by the Portsmouth MP follows his efforts to lobby Government over the city’s unsustainable housing targets set by Whitehall, and Mr Morgan’s success in securing a meeting with the Housing Minister to discuss planning and housing concerns.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“By refusing to vote with Labour, the Conservatives have shown Portsmouth and other communities whose side they’re on: wealthy developers that increasingly bankroll their party.

“Under the Developers’ Charter, Mr Johnson’s wealthy developer chums will be set loose to bulldoze and concrete over local neighbourhoods at will. Local residents will be gagged from objecting even if an oversized development threatens to blight their own street.

“Labour believes that good development can only happen when developers and communities work together, but the Developers Charter hands control to developers in what looks like payback for their massive increase in donations to the Conservative Party.”

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Portsmouth MP slams government as new research reveals thousands of local children living in poverty

Stephen Morgan MP has attacked the government today after new analysis published by the End Child Poverty Coalition showed a sharp rise in child poverty in Britain in the last 5 years, with more than 400,000 more children living in poverty after housing costs than in 2015.

Child poverty was rising sharply even before the Covid-19 pandemic, which is feared to have exacerbated the situation even further.

Child poverty is also rising locally and there are now 7,154 children in Portsmouth South living in poverty, an increase of 7.7% from five years ago. A staggering 37.5% of all children in the constituency are living below the poverty line, after housing costs.

Researchers combined data on child poverty published by the Department for Work and Pensions in May with information about local housing costs to build a detailed picture of child poverty across the country.

Mr Morgan has also signed the new “No Child Left Behind” pledge launched today by the National Education Union which says:

“As a Member of Parliament, I pledge to do everything in my power so that no child is left behind in Portsmouth.

“I call for the development of a cross-Government strategy to eradicate the poverty faced by the 4.3 million children currently growing up trapped in poverty. 

“I will use my vote and voice in Parliament to try to stop an expected 730,000 more children being plunged into poverty by 2024. 

“We must value and invest in all our children, so they are supported to learn, succeed, and go on to have bright futures.”

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, added:

“These figures are shocking and heart breaking. This Government has presided over a staggering increase in child poverty, and ministers should hang their heads in shame.

“Boris Johnson talks a good game about levelling up the country, but this Government’s shameful record is one of rising poverty, soaring food bank use and a widening attainment gap.

“I will keep standing up for children in Portsmouth and campaign for a Labour Government that will make tackling child poverty a top priority.

“That is why I am proud to sign the National Education Union’s pledge committing to do everything in my power to ensure no child is left behind.”

The Portsmouth MP criticised the government last year for failing for afford free school meals to children last year. For families in need of support, you can find range of local contacts for foodbanks and other organisations here.

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City MP raises concerns over ‘totally unsustainable’ government housing targets

Portsmouth South MP has blasted the government’s “inflated” housing targets for the city, and raised concerns about the impact of unsustainable development on the local infrastructure and “our treasured natural environment.”

The government’s 2020 Standard Methodology housing targets commit Portsmouth to building 17,357 dwellings between 2020 and 2038, or 855 per annum.

But the city is already one of the most densely populated in the UK, with approximately 220,000 people in 15 square miles. The Council’s 2019 Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) suggests there is capacity for up to 134 fewer dwellings per year than will be needed in the period to 2036.

According to property developer Lichfields, the new target is 602 dwellings per year more than the average delivery over the past three years.

Mr Morgan writes: “Our city recognises the need to build more homes, but any delivery must be sustainable, integrated with the right infrastructure, and acknowledge the unique circumstances Portsmouth faces.”

Natural England suggested halted housing applications in the Solent area in 2019 because of Nitrate contamination in harbours killing marine life. Portsmouth Council’s own data suggests continued development will worsen the existing greenspace deficit in the City.

The letter goes on: “As it stands, our housing targets are so high that we have no hope of meeting them and our City is being set up to fail.”

Stephen Morgan MP is urging Mr Jenrick to attend a summit meeting with local planning representatives to discuss the issue and support a more sustainable housing delivery plan.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan added:

“We all recognise the need to build more homes, but it must be delivered sustainably, with the right local infrastructure and must not put our environment at risk.

“Algorithms and formulas can never be a substitute for local knowledge and decision-making by councils and communities who know their area best.

“I am urging the Secretary of State to think again, and meet with myself and local planning representatives to see the impact these inflated targets would have on our area first hand.”

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Portsmouth MP demands action from government on unsafe cladding costs

Stephen Morgan MP led a debate in Parliament last night calling on the government to protect leaseholders from steep costs to remove unsafe cladding from their apartment blocks.

Efforts to remove unsafe cladding from high-rise buildings have accelerated since the Grenfell Tower disaster. Due to decades of poor regulation, the responsibility for costs often falls to leaseholders, leaving them in unsafe homes, unable to sell and subject to life-altering costs.

A number of properties in Portsmouth have been impacted by this issue, with Admiralty Quarter and Gunwharf Quays among those affected.

Speaking in the debate, the Portsmouth South MP said that some of his constituents fear they may be liable “to contribute between £20,000 – £30,000 each towards remediation.”

They also fear losing their homes and many are retired or on low incomes.

Currently open to building owners and freeholders to help cover the cost, the government’s Building Safety Fund has been criticised for poor communication with residents, taking too long to distribute funds and turning down requests with little rationale.

The government recently announced an additional £3.5bn loan scheme for high-rise cladding removal and loans for buildings under 18m, but Mr Morgan criticised the scheme, arguing it would it leave residents liable to pay to fix an issue they did not create and will likely mean many will still struggle to sell.

The Portsmouth South MP called on the Minister for Housing to meet the costs of remediation work in full and release the funds for repair work as quickly as possible.

He has also called for the government to include measures to ensure leaseholders cannot be held responsible for future costs in the forthcoming Building Safety Bill.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“It is scandalous for the government to expect leaseholders to pay these astronomical costs in full, with every moment of delay to these critical cladding changes putting lives at risk.”

“Last night I urged government to take responsibility for these costs, speed up the distribution of funds for remediation and legislate to ensure that regulation is never allowed to fail Portsmouth residents again.

“We know these concerns are not just felt in Portsmouth and the government must address them immediately.”

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‘Unfolding Scandal’ of Military Accommodation ‘falls far short’ of Armed Forces Covenant

Labour has criticised the government’s ‘appalling record’ on military housing, as data reveals that just half of service personnel are satisfied with the standard of their accommodation, the lowest since 2009.

The Army’s 2020 Continuous Attitudes Survey shows that a third of tri-service personnel said accommodation provision increased their intention to leave the service.

New data has also revealed that more than 9,000 military homes in England and Wales are awaiting repairs.

Since 2017, £300,000 has been paid in compensation for 9,088 missed maintenance appointments, with compensation given in the form of high street shopping vouchers.

Last week the National Audit Office’s report into Single Living Accommodation, which more than half of the Armed Forces call home, told a similar story.

The report concluded that “the Ministry of Defence is not meeting its commitment to provide high-quality subsidised accommodation to all service personnel.”

Meanwhile, the government continues to arbitrate its dispute with Annington Homes on the rent for Service Family Accommodation, currently occupied by a third of tri-service personnel.

The previous 1996 deal, dubbed “disastrous” by the Public Accounts Committee, held rents down by 58%, meaning service families could face rent hikes under a new deal.

The revelations come as the government’s Armed Forces Bill is due for its second reading on Monday.

Labour has criticised the Bill – which the government claims will ensure ‘fair treatment’ for members of the Armed Forces – for being too narrow and not going far enough to guarantee the rights afforded to service personnel under the Armed Forces Covenant.

Speaking ahead of the Bill’s Second Reading, Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The unfolding scandal of dilapidated military accommodation is a far cry from the ‘homes fit for heroes’ our service personnel should expect.

“The Tories appalling record on this issue is evident in every home that has trouble with basics like heating, hot water, with endless waits for repairs. This falls far short of the promises in the Armed Forces Covenant and those who serve deserve better.

“Labour stands squarely behind our service communities, and will press the government to make sure the Armed Forces Bill delivers quality, affordable housing for all service personnel, families and veterans.”

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Responding to the National Audit Office report on Improving Armed Forces’ Single Living Accommodation

After decades of under-investment, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is not meeting its commitment to provide all service personnel in the Armed Forces with high-quality subsidised accommodation, according to a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on Single Living Accommodation.

Single Living Accommodation is normally accommodation blocks inside military bases. At 31 October 2020, 79,963 service personnel, around 52% of the total Armed Forces, occupied SLA, which can vary considerably by type and quality.

At this date, around half of SLA residents lived in ‘good’ SLA (Grade 1 and 2), but 36% lived in poorer grade accommodation (Grade 4 or below).

In addition, approximately two-fifths of SLA buildings are more than 40 years old, although MoD has confirmed that all SLA was built in compliance with the standards applicable at the time of construction.

Responding to the findings,  Shadow Armed Forces Minister, Stephen Morgan MP, said:

“This report shows that too often service accommodation is a far cry from the ‘homes fit for heroes’ our forces should expect.  

“With more than half of the Armed Forces housed in Single Living Accommodation, substandard conditions present a serious risk to recruitment and retention. The appalling prevalence of issues with basics like heating and hot water doesn’t live up to the promises made in the Armed Forces Covenant. Those who serve deserve better.

“The Armed Forces Bill presents an important opportunity to make meaningful improvements to the day-to-day lives of those who serve. Labour will challenge the government to deliver quality, affordable housing for forces and their families.”

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Shadow Armed Forces Minister demands assurances Service Families won’t face rent hike

Stephen Morgan MP called on the government today to provide assurances that those living in Service Family Accommodation will not have to pay more as a result of new rent prices set via arbitration with private providers.

The Shadow Armed Forces Minister was questioning the government today on this issue at departmental defence questions in the House of Commons.

This comes following the first details of the forthcoming Armed Forces Bill were published last week. Among other things, the Bill seeks to introduce a legal duty on the relevant UK public bodies for health, education and housing to have due regard to the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant. (1)

However, after failed negotiations between the government and Service Family accommodation supplier Annington Homes, the matter is now subject to an arbitration process ahead of the first rent review later this year. (2) (3)

The previous deal provided a 58% downward adjustment on rent, but future rental costs are now subject to the arbitration process. (4)

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“On the face of it, the Armed Forces Bill will enshrine in law a due regard to necessities for Armed Forces personnel and their families, including housing.

“However, many Service Personnel families are facing uncertainty over whether they will be able to afford their rent, after the government failed to agree a fair price with private accommodation suppliers that is now being resolved via arbitration.

“Service personnel and their families deserve far better, and Government must provide them with the assurances they need to keep a roof over their heads.”

People and Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer committed to his colleague Jeremy Quinn to following up with further details in writing.

The second reading of the Armed Forces Bill is due to take place on February 8th.

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Portsmouth MP vows to ‘hold the Government to their promise and help ensure leaseholders are protected from unfair fire safety costs’ 

Labour will hold a vote on Monday (1 February 2021) in order to force the Government into action and protect millions of leaseholders from life-changing cladding costs and unsellable properties.

News of the latest intervention in the House of Commons has been welcomed by Stephen Morgan MP who has been taking action a range of actions to stand up for constituents over the remediation of unsafe cladding on residential blocks, and the impact this is having on leaseholders across the country.

Despite repeated promises from Ministers that cladding remediation costs would not be passed onto leaseholders, the Government has failed to deliver on this.

In the meantime, leaseholders across the country remain trapped in unsafe blocks during a third lockdown facing increasing interim costs and are often unable to sell or re-mortgage their property.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Three and a half years on from the tragic fire at Grenfell tower, the Government’s handling of the cladding crisis that has emerged has lacked any sense of grip or urgency.

I have deep concerns that people are being put at risk, trapped in flammable buildings for a third lockdown, and facing an unclear financial future.

Inaction has gone on too long. Labour is forcing a vote in Parliament calling on the Government to urgently establish the extent of dangerous cladding and prioritise buildings according to risk, provide upfront funding to ensure cladding remediation can start immediately, and protect leaseholders and taxpayers from the cost by pursuing those responsible for the cladding crisis.

I will also be supporting amendments to the Fire Safety Bill that hold the Government to their promise and help ensure leaseholders are protected from unfair fire safety costs”.

The amendment tabled by McPartland and Smith also provides welcome clarity on the specific costs that would be prevented from being passed on to leaseholders, but Labour has sought to go further.

As currently drafted, the McPartland and Smith amendment would not cover leaseholders in blocks where flammable cladding has been added at some stage following the building of the block. It only applies to defects in the original design of buildings. As an example, the Grenfell Tower was built in the 1970s, but the flammable cladding was added in 2017.

The Portsmouth South representative added:

“Labour has tabled an amendment that would ensure that the cost of fire safety problems from refurbishment jobs, like the cladding on the Grenfell tower, cannot be passed on to leaseholders. 

Labour’s amendments also include new clauses so that the Bill protects leaseholders from the day it comes into law, instead of an unknown date in the future. And Labour’s amendments ensure that if the Fire Safety Order is extended in the future, the Secretary of State must publish an analysis of the financial implications for leaseholders”.

MPs will be given the opportunity to vote for these amendments when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.

Stephen Morgan MP has been liaising with leaseholders at the Vista Apartments, Admiralty Quarter and Gunwharf Quays affected.

 

 

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Help and support this Christmas

If you or your family is struggling and in need of support over Christmas, there is help at hand. You are not alone.

Help with food

Local food banks can provide emergency food parcels over Christmas and New Year. Foodbanks provide around three days food for your household if you can’t afford to buy food.

The Salvation Army on Albert Road is providing emergency food parcels from 24 Dec – 3rd Jan (including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day) via phone request. Call: 023 9282 1164

You can find all Portsmouth food bank and community meal opening times over Christmas at: www.portsmouth.gov.uk/helpwithfood

Help with mental wellbeing

If you’re struggling to cope, feeling anxious, lonely or depressed, you’re not alone.

You can call the Samaritans free anytime, from any phone, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 116 123. You can also email jo@samaritans.org

Young people or parents and carers worried about a child’s wellbeing can also contact Childline via the website childline.org.uk or by calling 0800 1111. There is more advice, information and support at: portsmouth.gov.uk/mentalhealth

Help for vulnerable adults and children

You can contact the adult social care team on 023 9268 0810 or email ASCoppdAdmin@portsmouthcc.gov.uk. The out of hours contact number is 023 9268 0810.

You can contact the children’s social care and safeguarding team on 023 9283 9111 or 023 9268 8793 or email MASH@secure.portsmouthcc.gov.uk. The out of hours contact number is 0300 555 1373.

Help for victims of domestic abuse

Call Aurora New Dawn on 023 9421 6816. Get advice and information at stopdomesticabuse.uk or by calling 0330 016 5221 between 9.30am and 8pm, Monday to Friday.

Help for rough sleepers

The Homeless Day Service is open every day, including Christmas Day, 8am-4pm.

Anyone who is sleeping rough or at risk of sleeping rough can access the service for breakfast, snacks, hot drinks and other services like laundry facilities. Call: 023 9288 2689 Visit: Yew House Ground Floor, Milton Road, PO3 6BA (next to Hope House)

Help if you’re unwell

If you need medical help, call the NHS on 111 or use NHS 111 online. Don’t just show up at the Emergency Department (Accident and Emergency) – use 111 first, and they’ll give you all the support you need. If it is a medical emergency, call 999.

Coronavirus testing

Local Test Centres in Portsmouth and the Regional Test Centre in Southampton will be open every day over the festive season. Find out the opening times at: portsmouth.gov.uk/christmas

To request a test call 119 or visit: gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test

Additional support – HIVE Portsmouth

If you are in need of additional support please visit the HIVE Portsmouth directory of services at: www.hiveportsmouth.org.uk/hive-directory

The HIVE Portsmouth helpline (023 9261 6709) will be closed between 4pm on 23 December and 9am on 28 December and between 4pm on 31 December and 9am on 4 January.

When the helpline is closed HIVE Portsmouth will continue to check social media messages and may refer you to other organisations that can offer you support.

Find HIVE Portsmouth via @HIVEPortsmouth on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and send them a direct message.

This list has been provided with thanks by Portsmouth City Council’s communications team and is correct as at 22 December 2020