Affordable homes target could be missed
Fears that council's target of 1,000 by 2020 is unachievable
FEARS have been raised that West Berkshire Council will not be able to meet its target of providing 1,000 affordable homes by 2020.
Forecasts show that the council is likely to fall short of its aim, with just 883 affordable homes expected to be delivered in the next five years.
In response to these findings, the council is putting together an ‘action plan’ to address the issue.
The council’s performance report, which was presented to councillors recently, shows that just 158 affordable homes were built in the last year.
Speaking at a meeting of the council’s executive, opposition leader Alan Macro (Lib Dem, Theale) said: “There were only 158 affordable homes provided in the last financial year, down from over 200 the previous year.
“With the recent issue of viability in planning applications I suspect that target [of 1,000] is in some jeopardy.”
At the meeting, concerns were also raised over what impact delays to the proposed Sandleford Park development could have on meeting the target.
Sandleford developers have put in plans to build 2,000 homes in south Newbury – 40 per cent of which (800) would be affordable, but the application has yet to be approved due to various issues.
Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) asked: “How confident are the council, given our track record with developers of not being able to obtain a reasonable affordable housing number, of seeing that completed?
“The issues we’re seeing at Sandleford would suggest that those affordable homes won’t be completed by 2020.”
The council’s executive member for planning, Alan Law (Con, Upper Basildon) replied: “I know of no current threat to the 40 per cent at Sandleford.
“It’s part and parcel of the site masterplan.”
Say No to Sandleford campaigner and Wash Common resident Peter Norman had previously said that delays to the application could see the council’s affordable homes target ‘shot to pieces’.
There was also the scandal of 37 affordable homes lying empty at Parkway for three years – but that now looks set to end.
And Mr Law did give cause for optimism that the council may still meet its target, saying: “The Government has said we should include new starter homes as affordable homes.
“So far we haven’t been including them in our statistics.”
Council papers published last month say: “We currently have planning permissions in place that could see delivery of 3,308 units, of which 568 would be affordable (38 per cent).
“In addition, there are 844 affordable housing units in the Housing Site allocation DPD which provides a total of 1,412 units ‘in the pipeline’.
“The current forecast suggests that 883 will be built in the next five years.”
Earlier this year the affordable homes situation in Newbury was labelled as “dire” by town and district councillor Adrian Edwards (Con, Falkland).
Land Registry data shows that average house prices in West Berkshire have increased by 15 per cent over the last year, from £259, 007 in March 2015 to £298,069 in March 2016.
Delivering 1,000 affordable homes is one of the council’s key priorities and one of the Conservatives’ manifesto pledges before last year’s local elections.