Construction of 20 affordable homes and associated works
The Committee considered a report of the Principal Planning Officer which provided details of an application for the Construction of 20 affordable homes and associated works at Land West Of 1 Durham Road, Wolsingham (for copy see file of minutes).
The Principal Planning Officer provided a detailed presentation of the report and included site location plans, aerial photographs and photographs of the site.
Ms H Heward from Believe Housing spoke in support of the application, reiterating the Principle Planning Officers presentation and endorsing the positives findings. In summary, the application provided social, environmental and economical benefits and would deliver 100% affordable housing, with the inclusion of two bungalows.
A number of electric vehicle charging points had been included which were over and what was required by policy, as well as various other improvements. The design was to a high standard and quality finish, which was in-keeping with the local area and the site had footpath links to the rest of the community. The development complied with all policy.
Councillor Boyes noted Believe Housings reputation as one of the biggest social housing providers in the north east and strong proven record. This was an area that desperately needed affordable housing and he strongly supported the recommendation and moved approval for the reasons outlined in the report.
Councillor Adam advised that he was also minded to support the recommendation for similar reasons to Councillor Boyes however he was disappointed that despite the Council trying to reduce CO2 emissions, the development did not seem to recognise that and the only recommendation was with regards to sustainable design. With the recent rise in energy costs, he wondered why the developer had not considered any renewable energy that would save the customer money.
Ms Heward advised that whilst she appreciated Councillor Adam’s comments, discussions with officers had taken place but the decision had ultimately came down to the financial viability of the site. The developer had made an effort with a fabric first approach by reducing carbon emissions through insulation and increased energy efficiency, with some other aspects such as the provision of electronic vehicle charging points.
Councillor Brown advised that was also going to bring up Policy 29 however she recognised that Wolsingham was short of affordable housing and seconded the recommendation for approval.
Councillor Brown required further details on the rent to buy scheme and the Planning & Development Solicitor advised that although the schemes did vary, properties were initially rented and often the rent was used as deposit to purchase the property at end of certain period. The money that was generated from the sale of the property had to be invested in more properties.
Mr T Winter from Believe Housing confirmed that their rent to buy scheme gave the tenant the opportunity to rent the property at 80% of the market rent for five years but the onus was on the buyer to save the other 20% in order to purchase the property at the end of the scheme. If the tenant did not wish to purchase at the end of the five year period they were able to continue to rent the property.
In response to a further question from Councillor Brown, Mr Winter advised that the money from the sale of their properties had to be used for future affordable housing provision, but there was no requirement to build in the same area.
Councillor Oliver commented on the number of struggling businesses in this area and agreed that it needed affordable housing. In summary he advised that the location was good, it was within walking distance from the centre of Wolsingham and he supported the application.
Councillor Savory confirmed that she lived near to the site and welcomed the development. Affordable housing was always in great demand in the area and there had been no objection from the Parish Council, nor local residents or businesses which indicated that the local area also welcomed the development.
Councillor Atkinson confirmed that he also supported the scheme.
Councillor S Quinn had arrived during the debate and therefore did not take part in the discussion or decision making with regards to this item.
That the application be APPROVED subject to the following s106 agreements and the conditions outlined in the report:-
· 20 Affordable Housing units
· £16,950 offsite footpath improvement works
· £49,662 education contribution
· £34,782 Open Space, Sport and Play Provision contribution
· £3700 Habitat Mitigation