Providing four instead of five affordable homes for East Cambridgeshire village not popular
PUBLISHED: 10:40 01 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:40 01 August 2020
An East Cambridgeshire village is fuming after losing out on an affordable home because of the construction methods being used to build a small estate.
Swaffham Bulbeck was due to achieve five affordable homes following approval of an 18-home estate near to the T-junction of Quarry Lane and Swaffham Heath Road.
But the company that bought the site after planning consent had been agreed say they can only deliver four. Instead they will pay East Cambs Council £140,000 in lieu of the fifth.
George Ballard, chair of Swaffham Bulbeck Community Land Trust, raised his objection at an East Cambs planning committee.
He said that by dropping the number to four, it will deliver only 22 per cent of affordable, not the minimum of 30 per cent required.
“Commuting this loss by way of an off-site contribution in a financial sum ‘to provide an additional affordable unit’ does not provide this at all for Swaffham Bulbeck,” he said.
“The funds go to ECDC for distribution elsewhere and not necessarily for affordable housing.
“The justification is that a mix of market and affordable as semi-detached dwellings may be impractical. The impracticality is not I understand for the developer, but for the housing association which has been identified as the future owner/manager of the dwellings.
“The planning officer has accepted this supposition of impracticality without testing it.”
Mr Ballard said everyone was aware that the village had a CLT who were ready and willing to work with the developers to secure affordable housing units and to take on ownership and management of them.
“Our willingness to do this has not been tested,” he said.
The CLT had received urgent enquires from 14 young families currently living/working in Swaffham Bulbeck as to what affordable housing is likely to be available and when.
He said: “It is of no help to these people, members of our community, to say that one of the affordable homes that could have been theirs has been lost by way of an off-site contribution in a financial sum to ECDC.
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“They cannot live in that.”
Andrew Black said his client, Woolensbrook Developments, bought the site with the benefit of the planning permission already in place and has worked with resolve considerable issues with deliverability associated with the previous scheme.
The scheme has been reduced from 19 to 18 units in order to resolve some of the deliverability issues.
He said that Woolensbrook Developments would develop homes on the site using an innovative ‘off-site’ manufacturing process which is well established in their business in Europe.
Woolensbrook worked with Longhurst Housing Association and approval of the application would enable construction to begin immediately.
He said the relationship between the two was a “contractual commitment” built up over a long period.
A debate ensued over whether the commuted sum could be ultimately used by the CLT – and not sent to the district council. Mr Black promised to see if that might be possible.
Councillor Charlotte Cane said she had concerns about both the affordable housing element and the height of some of the proposed homes.
Dropping the percentage to 22 per cent “should not be accepted” she said.
“A commuted sum would not provide for the established needs in the village.”
As it is a village, opportunities to build are limited and the district council cannot afford to reduce the affordable housing on any developments, said Cllr Cane.
“The proposed manager of the affordable dwellings does not want to manage split tenure on a semi- detached property,” she said.
“However, there is a CLT in Swaffham Bulbeck which has stated that it would like to manage the affordable houses, and would be happy for this to include a split tenure semi-detached.
“A further option could be for the district council to consider a contribution, from its commuted sums reserves or from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority funds for affordable housing, to allow six affordable dwellings on the site and therefore no split tenure semi-detached”.
The application was approved and the planning committee will hear later if a solution to the fifth house can be found. Planning officers will report back shortly.
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