My View, Peter Burrows - Getting our houses in order

Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows.
Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows.

I ended my article last week with a criticism of a piece that appeared on a national newspaper website focusing on house prices in Doncaster. I’m not sufficiently versed in property matters to make comment on the accuracy – though I’m concerned for those caught up in the complexities of buying and selling houses and mortgage applications.

My own children are in their late 20s and early 30s and it’s painful to witness their struggle to get on the property market, not because they can’t afford the mortgage, but they can’t pay rent on the properties in which they live and at the same time save the huge deposits required.

Baxtergate. Picture: Andrew Roe

Baxtergate. Picture: Andrew Roe

I know from personal experience how long it can take to sell a property and I have friends and colleagues who’ve missed the opportunity to move because they couldn’t finalise a sale.

The article warns Doncaster may not be an isolated case and that following recent increases in house prices other areas of the country may begin to see reductions or stagnation.

However, I took exception to what I read as trite comparisons and negativity about Doncaster. You can’t, for example, compare house prices in the North with London. The author looks at a house originally for sale at £247,500 now on the market for £229,950 followed by the facile comment “In London, a four bedroom house like this would set you back more than £1 million”. Well of course it would. I feel for the couple trying to sell their property and I hope they will do so soon. The vast difference in house prices has always been so, it’s not a fair comparison. The author may well have said that a property in the Midlands would have had a similar disparity in prices and it would have been as accurate.

You can’t describe a place by what it is or isn’t, or a place defined by other geographical locations such as it being only “30 minutes in the car from Sheffield and 40 minutes from Leeds.” These things are true and Sheffield and Leeds are great places, but you describe a place by what it is.

As the article highlights, there are unattractive parts of Doncaster as there are unattractive parts of every town and city. To its credit, the article highlights that Doncaster is trying to reinvent itself and draws attention to positive developments around the town – and that’s the point, not the problem.

Doncaster has a rich past, it’s had its difficulties and problems, but what it is, is a place on the move and reinventing itself into a modern and lively community in which people can and will flourish. It’s still got difficulties and complexities to address, it will take time and the energy and the goodwill of the people of Doncaster and those in positions of authority and leadership.

I acknowledge that Doncaster may have a particular housing problem but what it has and what makes it great, is warm and generous and down-to-earth people. That’s what defines a great community.

* Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster