Last Tuesday in the House of Commons a debate took place under the subject of Affordable and Safe Housing for All which was introduced by Lucy Powell and rather tragically but perhaps understandably the Conservative Government managed to persuade all of its members to vote against the amendment that she introduced. The amendment was very simple
respectfully regret that the Gracious Speech fails to prevent the potentially ruinous costs of remediation works to make buildings safe being passed on to leaseholders and tenants;
and call on the Government to set a deadline of June 2022 to make all homes safe.
However the lack of support of the amendment was only one element of what took place. There were some very positive aspects that did emerge during the debate. One of them came from the MP for the Isle of Wight, Bob Seely who early in the debate called on his political colleague to respond to his question. Sadly so far I have not spotted the response. The question was
We all want to see more affordable homes, and we badly need them on the Isle of Wight. Why are we not doing more to free up the 1 million homes—planning applications for properties—that have been landbanked by developers? This is a massively quick win. What can we do about it?
The response from Robert Jenrick was
I will come to that point in a moment, if I may, because the good news is that the planning reform Bill does that as well. We are not divided on this issue; we are united. We want a better planning system, and we want planning applications that are granted to be built out as quickly as possible. The Bill will achieve both of those objectives.
Sadly I did not spot him coming to that point throughout the rest of the debate. However later on Bob Seely focused on the theme with these comments amongst others.
Let me give an unfortunate example from the Island. AEW, a multibillion-pound property firm, bought a site, Ryde ice rink, a few years ago. The firm fell out with the community group that was using it, kicked them out and finished skating on the Island, meaning all the kids have had to go to the mainland. AEW’s tactics have been to sweat our council to allow a change of use—it has gamed the system to make more money by achieving a change of use. Its behaviour has been utterly wretched—the firm is little more than white-collar bully boys who care little about Ryde, my community and the Island more generally. When asked to do something about it, the firm boasts about its exceptionally expensive lawyers—it is part boast, part legal intimidation of Isle of Wight Council and, presumably, me. Under the current system, as imperfect and in need of reform as it is, we can fight these dreadful, arrogant people, in the hope that they will eventually give up, get fed up when they do not get change of use and, frankly, go forth and multiply. I am genuinely worried that under the new system communities like Ryde will not have a voice in what is happening to the property—especially significant property—in their patch, and it is ethically questionable companies like AEW that will profit.
So my question is why not use Parliament to bring Richard Tanner and Rachel McIsaac to explain why they are acting as they are and if their actions cannot be justified then this would justify removing the premises from them. The third MD is Nick Winsley but his focus is on the Head of Investments. However the Company does have two Independent Non Executive Directors and one of them is Alan Botterill and he is someone who would listen to this concern. The Company website is here.