Village delight at housing policy

COUNCILLORS in a north Northumberland village are ‘delighted’ that a housing policy that prioritises local people has been introduced so soon after the issue was raised.

At last Monday’s meeting of Wooler Parish Council, members were critical of the fact that Wooler did not have a rural allocation policy, which prioritises local people for social housing, pointing to the severe need for two and three-bedroom houses in the area.

Kerry Howie, a housing officer at Berwick Borough Housing, explained that while there was demand for these types of properties, the lack of demand for flats and bungalows meant that, based on the county council’s Northumberland Homefinder policy, Wooler did not have a rural allocation policy.

But now Berwick Borough Housing has told local member Coun Anthony Murray that Wooler will have a local policy.

He said: “A rural lettings policy is now in place in Wooler, which means that people who have lived in Wooler for three years or have relations there have first call for the first two weeks of a letting coming up on two or three-bedroom houses, even if they are not top of the list on Northumberland Homefinder.

“It means that young people who are part of the community will at least have a chance to get housing.

“As far as I’m concerned I realise and appreciate that it’s only a couple of weeks but I know that the people who have contacted me will be on the ball within a couple of hours.”

This decision came after the issue was also raised at a meeting of the Glendale Gateway Trust’s housing group last Tuesday morning and the Glendale Community Plan meeting in the afternoon.

Coun Murray added: “I feel that maybe our democracy is working, at least in some places.”

Wooler Parish Council chairman Coun Alfreda Hindmarsh said: “We are absolutely delighted that it’s happened so quickly and we hope it will be of benefit, especially for the young people of Wooler.

“We know of one person, who has been waiting a long time, who has already been allocated a house.”

Coun Hindmarsh also pointed out that housing application forms are now available from the library, another issue raised by members at last week’s meetings.