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 Inside Out - South East of England: Monday October 11, 2004


Gary and Kate
STILL TALKING | Gary and Kate might have heated arguments but they can still have a laugh

The government's policy of putting poorer people in affordable housing in exclusive areas is coming under scrutiny by the ones living with it. Neighbours Kate and Gary live with the scheme and they are less than impressed.

In a fashionable Tunbridge Wells house, a two-bedroom flat is on the market for £250,000. Kate and Gary both live in this desirable house, but that's where the similarities end.

Kate is a restaurant manager, who enjoys travelling and charity work. Her first floor flat is privately owned.

Gary works as a jobbing builder and has a pet snake. Some two years ago, he moved into the ground floor social housing flat managed by a housing association.

The difference in ownership has created problems in the house. As Kate puts it, "People have to work for hours to live in a place like this, and then others get it for free and don't live by the same rules."

Cats and 'trivial' parking problems

The problems in the sought-after house began six months after Gary moved in and have continued ever since. It started with a cat in this building where no pets are allowed.

Parked cars
Gary doesn't have a parking space - but still parks here

The cat was caught weeing on the front step. Gary was only looking after the cat for his ex-wife and had no plans to keep it.

Then it's the issue with the parking spaces.

Gary doesn't have a parking space. Yet he parks, what Kate calls "a fleet of cars" outside the house.

Gary feels the argument about parking spaces is just "trivial" and is adamant the problems are deeply rooted in a class mentality.

Gary believes the rest of the residents consider him working class and says "We are segregated."


This scheme of combining privately owned housing with social housing, also called affordable housing, is termed pepper-potting.

Pepper pot
Pepper-potting - one way of sprinkling poorer people in the community

Pepper-potting is the technique of sprinkling poorer people throughout a community and is a term mainly used by the housing professionals.

Arvinda Gohil works with the National Housing Federation.

"The idea is that within a given area you have people from all walks of life living together to build communities.

"The alternative is large housing estates resulting in segregation and deprivation."

It's up to the local council to make sure there is a percentage of affordable housing included in every new-build or re-development.

Planning applications scrutinised

Tony Fulwood
Tony Fulwood believes in pepper potting

Tony Fulwood is the head of Strategy and Development for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

"What happens is when a planning application comes in, we look for a percentage of affordable housing within. Therefore as developments come forward we negotiate, normally 25%."

Ideally, affordable housing should be indistinguishable from the houses sold on the open market.

The result of the pepper-potting is people from different social classes living next door to each other. In an ideal society this is the ideal system to create a mixed sustainable community.

Financing the builds comes from a combined central government grant and private sector funding. Many home-owners have expressed concern over the effect pepper-potting has on their property.

Is it worth it?

The pepper-potting scheme has been known to cause friction in some cases, but it will continue as housing policy in the foreseeable future.

Arvinda Gohil
Pepper potting is worth it - Arvinda Gohil

For these people involved, either living or working within the scheme, the opinions are divided whether it is worth it.

Gary doesn't feel the pepper-potting scheme is working at all, mainly due to other people.

"We should all be able to get on, but certain people will not allow it."

Arvinda Gohil from the National Housing Federation sees pepper-potting as the only way to go in the future.

Kate believes in the theory of the policy.

"It doesn't work because there will always be an inevitable divide between people."

Tony Fulwood from Tunbridge Wells Council says "I believe pepper-potting results in two things, social mix and the provision of affordable housing which is much needed in the South East."

See also ...

One Life: Housing Advice

On the rest of the web
Housing Ombudsman Service
National Housing Federation

Neighbours From Hell in Britain

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Mrs Sally Allum
I have a plot of land in the South East, which I have been trying to get planning permission on since 2001? We have been turned down as we have been told it is in the Country side. I cannot understand this as planning has been given for 4 detached houses to be built across the road from us. and we have a bungalow one side and a public house the other side which has now been converted into 4 flats and the old car park to the public house was developed last year with 4 detached houses. I have been told off the record that if we were to offer our land to social housing they would get planning permission without any trouble. I work for this housing association and it does make me cross to think they can get planning but we can't.

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