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Council to be "in control of its destiny" with housing venture

Proposed project aims to build affordable housing faster

Fiona Tomas

Fiona Tomas

fiona.tomas@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886639

Thatcham 'eyesore' to become affordable housing

A NEW partnership between West Berkshire Council and Sovereign Housing association could fast-track hundreds of affordable homes in the district. 

The local authority has unveiled plans for the joint venture – formally called a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP).

It is hoped the initiative between the two organisations will help meet the council’s target of providing 1,000 new affordable homes in West Berkshire by 2020.

It comes after the council conceded it is not likely to be able to single-handedly achieve this target by then.  

News of the proposed venture – which has yet to be approved on Sovereign’s behalf – was revealed by Hilary Cole, the council’s portfolio holder for housing, planning and waste, last week.

Mrs Cole said: “This joint approach will give both us and Sovereign the flexibility that is key to meeting individual housing needs in West Berkshire, by offering mixed tenure housing using a combination of council and Sovereign land acquired specifically for housing purposes.

“By taking this flexible but strategic approach, we are confident that many more housing needs can be met sooner.”

At a meeting of the council’s executive last week, Mrs Cole laid out the initial plans for the joint venture, through which she said the council are “choosing to be more in control of its own destiny” when it comes to affordable housing.  

Two sites for development have already been identified – a scheme in Hungerford for eight homes and a site in Newbury for 48 homes.

A separate report will be placed before the council’s executive once the final appraisal and business plan have been developed.

Should Sovereign approve the partnership when its board members meet in mid-July to discuss business planning and legal arrangements, it would be the first joint venture the housing association will have undertaken with a local authority.

Sovereign’s executive director of development Ben Denton said: “This is an exciting, innovative approach, bringing together the skills, land and investment needed to help build the homes we need in West Berkshire more quickly.

“While we still need approval from our board, we share the same objectives as West Berkshire Council and it makes sense for us to work together more closely to achieve more than we could apart.”

It is anticipated that the joint venture will be formally created in the autumn.

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