Sunday, 25 January 2009

Affordable housing in Newquay?

Once again, I am not a happy man. Last week, a number of applications for large amounts of housing in and around Newquay were presented to the Planning Committee at Restormel Borough Council.

I could not participate in the actual debates as all the sites had issues relating to archaeology and, due to my employment, I had to declare an interest.

I did however address the start of the meeting to raise my concerns with how Restormel’s new Supplementary Planning Document on Affordable Housing was being applied.

I reminded members that the new policy seeks properties to sold at a discounted value, as follows:

· One-bedroom properties at an average value of £71,125.
· Two-bedroom properties at two average values of (low) £71,125 and (high) £88,875.
· Three-bedroom properties at two average values of (low) £88,875 and (high) £106,500.

It was clear to me that in the majority of the applications (including three from the Duchy of Cornwall comprising some 700 units) the ‘affordable’ homes on offer were not in line with the new policy.

For the two-bed and three-bed units, values were focused on the higher value band only and there was no attempt to meet the commitment to provide 50% of the two-bed units at £71,125 or 50% of the three-bed units at £88,875. I told the meeting that I considered this to be unacceptable.

I agreed that the Council is duty bound to consider issues relating to viability and other facilities were being offered as part of these developments such as employment land. But no information has been submitted by the Duchy in respect of viability. There was no information about how Convergence money, for instance, might be used to deliver the employment space and I felt such lack of information could be used to weaken the ‘affordability’ of the affordable units.

With respect to the Duchy, it is a long-standing landowner and there has been plenty of spin about the ‘wonderfulness’ of the Growth Area and I would expect them to deliver affordable properties in-line with Council policy.

I challenged the councillors to demand a better deal for our local communities and seek to apply the policy as rigorously as possible.

This did not happen and the applications were passed.

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