“Without the support of my parents there is absolutely no way I would have been able to stay in the town that my family have been in for generations.” stated Councillor Mark Cooper, twice Mayor of Marlborough, as was his father the late Maurice Cooper to the full Town Council at last night’s ( Monday 06 November) meeting in the Town Hall.
For Mark, the family ties and history run deep and he expressed his real concerns about the younger generations in the town, being able to stay, live, work and grow here once they have been through the local school system.
“It’s really important that those Marlburians, who have family links to this town, who’ve been to school in this town, who care about this town, who want to stay in this town, have the opportunity to do just that. To live here. For many, without the support of their families, there would be no way they could.” Mark added.
What’s the problem? Why is staying and living in Marlborough beyond the dream of many younger members of the community? “The Social Housing situation is really poor, this housing is being ‘sold off’, and it’s really difficult to get, and anything that we can do as the Town Council, working with other groups in the community is vital.” states Mark.
The initiative to declare a ‘Housing Emergency’ in Marlborough is in effect a raising of a big red flag (not party political) which says – ‘ there is a problem’. To all. To other members of the community, not least the business community.
Can businesses recruit younger staff? It’s not easy as the wages being paid can barely get near the cost of rent for any accommodation. Let alone enough for a mortgage. And, public transport around here is pretty inadequate, irrespective of what Wiltshire Council might claim, and getting buses from outlying villages to and from work at convenient times is, in most cases not an option. Get a car – then where does anyone park – that is in walking distance of work and doesn’t cost a fortune?
Marlborough rents have rocketed over recent years and even any small(ish) accommodation will be costing a four figure sum every month. Marlborough is a popular and attractive town, great for the economy and for the community, but there is a ‘soft side’ which is housing for those on lower earnings, that was once accounted for by Council Housing and accommodation that was definitely in the ‘Social Housing bracket, which has now all but disappeared.
The Housing Associations are more devoted to redeveloping old stock (such as the York Place development in St Martins) and selling it off, even with a small percentage as ‘Affordable Housing’, which is a level of 80% of market rate, thus at a level way above what many younger members of the community can afford. So they don’t help, and, in practice, make the situation worse. They are nowadays more ‘Developers’ rather than suppliers and managers of accommodation for those who can’t afford to step onto the independent commercial ladder.
Wiltshire and Marlborough Town Councillor Jane Davies added: “I fully support Mark’s proposal to declare a housing emergency. There are opportunities for town and parish councils to work with Community Land Trusts for example, and the smaller housing associations who have robust local connection policies. Declaring a housing emergency will allow the town council to prioritise this vital issue. It’s not just about building more and more houses, that’s not the answer, it’s about getting the right partners involved so the homes created really are a community benefit, I want to ensure local families and businesses can thrive.”
So Councillor and former twice Mayor Mark Cooper’s plea is real, heartfelt and will touch many in the Marlborough community who live this at first hand on a daily basis. What can the Town Council do? Firstly make the whole community aware, to make sure that we all understand the problem facing the younger and less well off members of the town and then apply the necessary pressures to refocus the attention of the organisations that influence.
“This is where the ‘Housing Emergency’ comes in. It’s equally important that the young and future generations are able to live in the town that they’ve grown up in that they’ve invested in emotionally, economically, and I feel that is really important.” stated Mark, in summary.