The Fossett’s for the People campaign is non-political and we are happy to receive invitations to speak to any organisation or group. We were delighted to be invited to speak at a Labour Party conference event organised by the New Economics Foundation, which took place on Monday 23rd September.
Kate Sheehan, Co-Chair of the campaign, spoke alongside MPs John McDonnell and Ed Miliband, giving a heartfelt and passionate speech which was very warmly received by a packed audience.
Kate said: “I’m here to speak on behalf of the resident-run Fossetts for the People community campaign for council and keyworker housing, of which I am proud to say I’m the Co-Chair and a cog in a brilliant wheel of like-minded activists.
“Southend Hospital sold their land to government body Homes England for £7.8 million in 2018 – land that pre-STP was originally destined to have a brand new and much needed diagnostics and treatment centre on it.
“We were outraged and instantly hooked on fighting to stop Homes England from selling on NHS land belonging to OUR community to a private developer for housing that very few of the people in Southend could ever afford. That’s OUR land: we, the public, own it and therefore it should rightfully be developed to benefit our community and not used for private profiteering.
“After we slammed Homes England for organising a virtually un-advertised public consultation launch where they hadn’t even invited local councillors, they conceded to a meeting with us and we told them some cold, hard home truths. Southend has approximately 1500 people on the council house waiting list, more people than ever in emergency accommodation, rising homelessness, a buoyant buy-to-let market driving private rents through the roof, a massive NHS keyworker shortage, one of the lowest average living wages in the country and a whopping 33% of children living in poverty in the constituency the land sits on.
“Homes England have the power to gift that land to our council to build the housing we so desperately need yet at our meeting with their team, Allert Riepma, their senior development manager proffered that they had a “duty to the public” to achieve the ‘best consideration’ for that piece of public land. People need council homes and they need NHS staff to look after them. We can’t attract those much needed staff to Southend to fill our vacancies without housing to meet their needs.
“Homes England has yet to give us any answers but they’ve finally agreed to meet again after months of badgering to ‘reiterate’ their position. We’ll continue to challenge their position.
“Public land in public hands – Homes England, we want YOU to change the rules and give that land back to the people of Southend to build the council and keyworker homes we desperately need.”
We are making the point time and again that ‘best consideration’ is not defined as ‘the highest price’. If the government policy makers had meant ‘best financial consideration’, they would have written the policy that way. They didn’t, and therefore gave Homes England the leeway to dispose of the land for other considerations – in this case the ‘best consideration’ is to meet a dire need for social housing in our town. Homes England has a public duty to listen to our views.