Housing: we could do better - Julie Howell, Peterborough Green Party

Speaker's Corner columnists -  Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
Speaker's Corner columnists - Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
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S helter is one of the most basic human needs. It is absolutely correct that our local paper and local politicians should devote so much energy to working towards finding solutions to the current lack of social and affordable housing in Peterborough.

Lack of affordable housing is just one aspect of our current crisis. Lack of suitable and safe homes is creating human misery that we must not ignore.

Housing - a roof over your head, four walls around you and a floor under your feet - provides shelter. But housing must also provide for our other basic human needs: health, safety, community, peace of mind.

A number of residents living in social housing in Peterborough have told me that they are living in intolerable situations and that the council and housing associations are unable to offer any help.

They describe overcrowding or isolation, difficulties with neighbours, misery and mess.

A lady contacted me this week because her neighbour has severe mental health problems, yet neither social services nor the NHS seem able to help and the police have said there is nothing they can do. She is afraid. Stress is stopping her from sleeping.

I was recently alerted to horrendous fly tipping.

Peterborough City Council was unable to deal with it because the mess was not on council land. After some fuss the rubbish was removed, but fuss shouldn’t have been necessary. Our residents deserve better than this.

New build estates are not a panacea either. I used to live on the Sugar Way estate in Woodston, which has been built with shops, a GP surgery, a nursery and recreational facilities as part of the development. This sharply contrasts with developments further west near the East of England Showground. These developments don’t have any shops or community facilities, and the local road infrastructure has not been updated to support the advent of hundreds of houses and thousands of people.

People living in Orton Northgate endure unlit paths that are treacherous after nightfall. Walking their children to school involves crossing dangerous roads at Lynchwood Business Park that were not constructed for pedestrians. Cycle paths that form the Green Wheel around the estate are overgrown. Trees and hedgerows are poorly maintained.

Residents of new build estates can spend 20 years living on what are effectively building sites. During this time they pay council tax, additional charges to the council for services such as brown bin collection and service charges to developers’ appointed maintenance companies. Some properties are encroached upon by overgrown trees that no one will take responsibility for.

For houses to be homes they must be safe and the areas in which they are built must be safe for people to live in. We need to do better. We need to listen to residents. We’re letting them down when we don’t provide the building blocks for safe communities as well as bricks and mortar.