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Council could give away land to solve affordable homes issue

West Berkshire Council admits it is likely to fall short of target

Dan Cooper

Dan Cooper


01635 886632

Council tax set to rise by four per cent from April

COUNCIL-owned land could be given away to developers to meet the increasing demand for affordable housing in West Berkshire.

The Conservative-run West Berkshire Council admits it is “most unlikely” to hit its manifesto commitment to deliver 1,000 affordable homes by 2020.

The council’s own figures show that 267 affordable homes have been completed since April 2015.

It subsequently put together an action plan to address the issue and has come up with two ideas to increase the number of affordable homes.

A report circulated to councillors last week said: “One area is a suggestion that the council reconsiders its approach to its own estate and whether the development of affordable homes on its own land should be a priority.

“We have very limited land that is suitable for residential development but if members were minded to forgo a capital receipt this would be achievable.

“Another positive area arises from our joint working with Sovereign Housing Association (SHA) as a key delivery partner for affordable housing.

“This has generated a proposal that has, as part of it, the capacity to realise an additional 40-plus affordable housing units.”

The council also admits in the report that there are “increasing difficulties in securing the desired level of affordable homes on new developments”.

This issue has been highlighted on more than one occasion recently – not least the development at Market Street, Newbury, which was approved last month.

West Berkshire Council gave the land, valued at £3.9m, free to developer Grainger in return for it developing the area and providing new facilities such as a multi-storey car park.

But despite this, only 13 of the 225 homes being built will be affordable – because Grainger said it would not be viable for them to provide more.

The council also says it is ready to refuse planning permission for 2,000 homes at Sandleford Park – up to 800 of which would be affordable – over several disputes with the developer.

West Berkshire Council’s opposition leader Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) said that soaring house prices and a lack of affordable homes were driving people away from West Berkshire.

Land Registry data revealed the average house price in the district rose by 10 per cent in the 12 months – from £313,717 in August 2015 to £345,097 in August 2016.

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Article comments

  • newsouls

    04/01/2017 - 11:11

    Can they not do this in newbury - In Totes in Devon they are building Community right to build order. The link is above for the full documentation. "If your community wants to construct or rebuild community buildings such as a community centre or community-led housing, a Community Right to Build Order could be the best route for you to take. A Community Right to Build Order is a type of Neighbourhood Development Order and forms one of the neighbourhood planning tools introduced in the Localism Act 2011. It can be used to grant outline or full planning permission for specific development which complies with the order. For example: homes, shops, businesses, affordable housing for rent or sale, community facilities or playgrounds."


  • philjay2

    03/01/2017 - 15:03

    Since the last land gift to developers of £3.9m has yielded 13 homes this equates to £300000/home cost to local taxpayers. Much better to have contracted a builder to build homes for the council on council land (that is our land). Building costs are nowhere near £300k/house. This has a bad smell to it. Continuing on this demand for "affordable" homes, there seems no shortage of buyers for the "unaffordable " homes so what exactly is going on here.


    • Oldmoaner

      03/01/2017 - 17:05

      well said why can't the council build themselves for the public purse. Or is that to simple.


  • NewburyLad

    03/01/2017 - 08:08

    Don't give away land - SELL IT. It is OUR money that pays your income. We are not a bottomless pit nor are we a money tree. Alternatively, just tell the government to sod off with their demands to building housing, or put another way, Britain is FULL UP and does not need to import anyone else.


    • Adama

      03/01/2017 - 14:02

      NewburyLad, how can you offer solutions when you clearly have no grasp of the issue? There is massive demand for (particularly affordable) housing, yet due to lack of construction for decades there is a chronic lack of supply.. Millions are on social-housing waiting lists (migrants take up less than 10% of this figure despite perceptions) , and many more in insecure tenancies in the private rented sector. This is a direct consequence of a an absence of credible house-building initiatives by successive governments. To actually suggest that the government would somehow be forcing homes upon us is laughable. Almost as funny as the idea that the UK is 'full up', which is of course supported by zero evidence.


      • NewburyLad

        03/01/2017 - 18:06

        Adama - "Two-thirds of primary head teachers say their schools are full and unable to provide any more places using current facilities, with demand particularly high in urban areas in Yorkshire and the north of England, according to a new survey." - The Guardian 2014. "Official figures reveal 23 per cent of schools are now classed as "full or over capacity", up from 20 per cent five years ago. The problem is the most acute in the North West, Yorkshire, the Midlands and South East. In Sutton, South London, 63 per cent of schools are full or over-capacity." Telegraph 2016. Just two examples. Then there's road capacity. Rail capacity. Hospitals. Surgeries. There is plenty of evidence to show the UK is full up if you would just open your eyes.


        • Adama

          03/01/2017 - 23:11

          In terms of population density and the amount of available land to build upon the UK is not full. However just as we have a shortage of housing, we've lacked serious investment in key infrastructure that we need to cope with population growth. This increase in population will likely occur whether you place limits on immigration or not, and if you did so you would by all analysis depress house-building further.


        • EugeneStryker

          04/01/2017 - 12:12

          We are being sold a sleight of hand: look over there and blame all of your problems on immigration, whilst nothing is done about the challenges faced by the vast majority of the population. Whilst immigration is not without its issues, it is not the root cause of problems experienced in education, transport and the NHS.


    • EugeneStryker

      03/01/2017 - 10:10

      It is simplistic to equate the current housing crisis only to immigration. Most migrants will rent in the private sector and around 91% of all new social tenancies are taken up by UK-born citizens. The Chartered Institute of Building points out that any caps that are put on immigration will harm building rates because British-born nationals are either not trained or not interested in construction; interestingly this is not the fault of migrants but successive governments.