Norfolk and Suffolk are set for a massive infrastructure boost, after New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s bid for a share of a £1 billion pot of government funding was successful.
Of the £60 million awarded to New Anglia, £10 million has been earmarked to boost broadband for the most rural areas of Norfolk and Suffolk. This is particularly good news because Norfolk County Council and BT’s ‘Better Broadband For Norfolk’ project still cannot reach the most rural properties because they are too far from the telephone exchange.
This investment will help 95 per cent of Norfolk and Suffolk homes to get connected to superfast broadband by 2017. I will be talking to Norfolk County Council about making sure that this money focuses on properties that are slipping through the net.
PRIVATE MEMBER’S BILL
Last week, my Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Bill was presented on the floor of the House of Commons. My Bill would require local authorities to keep a register of individuals or community groups who are interested in acquiring land for custom housebuilding projects.
It would mean that when local councils draw up their local plans and housing initiatives, provision would need to be made for those on the self-build register.
The Bill also aims to allow the big housebuilders to count custom-build projects towards their affordable housing obligations, so long as they are in partnership with a Registered Social Landlord, such as Saffron Housing.
Custom-build housing has great potential to help ease the housing crisis if it can be made into a more mainstream activity. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Talking of Saffron Housing, I am delighted that its groundbreaking apprenticeships programme continues to go from strength to strength.
Last year, the Skills Minister Matt Hancock visited Saffron’s Long Stratton HQ on a snowy February morning to learn about the scheme. Last week, the Saffron team took some of their apprentices to Westminster to meet Mr Hancock and update him on the scheme’s progress, including Saffron’s plans for the future of the programme.
Mr Hancock was delighted to see Saffron’s scheme growing apace and his backing is a strong signal to other housing associations that the Saffron apprenticeships model is something they should be replicating.
I am proud that this scheme started in my constituency and that it continues to grow. My congratulations go to all at Saffron Housing Trust.