Labour’s housing chief gives Ipswich council houses seal of approval

Sandy Martin, John Healey, and Neil Macdonald at Bader Close in Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Sandy Martin, John Healey, and Neil Macdonald at Bader Close in Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey has visited Ipswich to see the local authority’s work to build new council houses.

And he said the work of the Labour-run council could be copied across the country to help ease the nation’s housing crisis – if the government eased restrictions on local authority house building.

Mr Healey, who was housing minister under Gordon Brown, accepted his party had been too slow in easing restrictions on council house building between 1997 and 2010.

He visited the new council homes off Bader Close in east Ipswich. Since this was completed last year government rules have changed so any new council development has to include some homes for sale on the general market.

Mr Healey said: “This is a very good example of how new council homes can really make a difference to communities. If you look at these homes there is no difference in appearance to those built by private developers.

“What we need to do is to free up councils like Ipswich to allow them to build more homes like this.”

He was joined on his visit by new Ipswich MP Sandy Martin and Neil Macdonald who is portfolio holder for housing at the borough.

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Mr Macdonald said: “This is the last development we could do of exclusively council homes – we are building more elsewhere but they now have to be mixed developments with some homes for sale.”

Mr Healey was appointed housing minister by Mr Brown and eased restrictions on council house building that had been in place since the 1980s: “We should probably have done that earlier during our 13 years in office,” he accepted.

And he also said developments of homes with gardens was often the best solution for providing council homes, even in large cities where there are large tower blocks – an issue that has arisen since last month’s Kensington tragedy.

He said: “It is always a question of horses for courses, but there have been places where tower blocks have come down to be replaced by low-rise traditional homes like this and there are actually more homes created and it is what people want. This is certainly the right kind of development for a community like Ipswich.”

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