Monday 17 August 2015

Affordable Housing - The council splitting its sites?

Last Thursday the planning committee approved an application, put forward by the council itself, to demolish a former village school and build four dwellings, a separate proposal for two further dwelling adjacent to the site was also approved.

Mynyddcerrig Primary School

The Council's own Supplementary Planning Guidance states that;

"The affordable housing will be required to be provided on proposals of 5 or more dwellings in
all settlements. Where adjacent and related residential proposals result in combined numbers meeting or exceeding the above threshold, the Council will seek an element of affordable housing based on the affordable housing target percentages set out above". 

It did not go unnoticed at Thursday's meeting that the two plots added up to six dwellings and yet there was no affordable element at all. You might think that after closing and selling the village school a contribution to the community would be the least they could do.

The LDP, adopted by the council last December, aims to provide 2,121 affordable homes by 2021 and promises to try and "maximise the potential of Planning’s role in gaining affordable homes". 

This target is highly unlikely to be reached, particularly when the council appears to avoid following its own policy by splitting a site into two applications and hoping no one can add up.

Eventually, with the acting head of planning floundering over a response, the council solicitor intervened and claimed that the council had a duty to get the best price for the land and any inconvenient S106 conditions would reduce the value.

An interesting statement and. as we have learned,  a 'duty' entirely dependent the parties involved with the notorious Marstons' deal being a classic example.

Whether the duty to get the best price for land should outweigh the duty to provide affordable housing and support local communities is, however, an interesting question.

If nothing else, it gives the wrong message to developers who might be given to thinking that the council is a push-over when it comes to applications to reduce affordable housing obligations...

There is an excellent blog post from County Councillor Sian Caiach on the current 'Fire sale' of publicly owned land and buildings in Carmarthenshire.
It is, of course, our land and property but unfortunately we, and indeed backbench councillors rarely hear about it until the deal is done. As Cllr Caiach says, the ambition to be the most transparent council in Wales is currently a sick joke.

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