EXMOOR families have been urged to make their voices clearly heard in a consultation over new affordable housing schemes in the national park.
Local Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger says the park authority must be left in no doubt that it is facing a chronic shortage of accommodation for local families – and that as many units as possible should be built.
Eight parishes have set up a housing working group and now, after an appeal to local landowners, seven sites have been suggested, either for multiple houses, single units or self-build projects.
Exmoor national park authority has now started a full consultation on their suitability.
But Mr Liddell-Grainger, whose Bridgwater and West Somerset constituency includes two-thirds of Exmoor, is urging local people to submit their responses before the deadline of March 31.
He says the initiative is long overdue.
“The lack of affordable housing on Exmoor has been flagged up for years as one of the most pressing issues facing the national park – but the park authority has appeared more concerned about looking after the wildlife rather than the people who make up the Exmoor community,” he said.
“Successive Exmoor administrations have stood back and allowed the uncontrolled spread of second homes, the net effect of which has been the loss of local shops in some villages – as a survey has revealed – while pushing average house prices well beyond the reach of most people earning Exmoor wages.
“I am relieved something is at last being done to remedy this, though there is a huge amount of ground to make up and I find it somewhat dispiriting that this initiative has taken three years just to get to the point of public consultation.
“Young people who grow up on Exmoor have every right to continue living there. It is manifestly unjust that they should be elbowed off the moor by second home owners.
“They are the future lifeblood of Exmoor villages and unless we can keep them living and working within the national park those villages are going to slowly die.
“I would urge everyone to respond positively to this consultation – and to put whatever pressure they can on the park authority for an early start on construction.”
The consultation can be accessed at: https://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/planning/planning-advice/affordable-housing/affordable-housing-survey-2021