Affordable housing target '˜abandonment' is disputed

A council target requiring developers to provide a sizeable chunk of affordable housing has been '˜abandoned', an opposition councillor has claimed.

Thursday, 19th January 2017, 4:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th January 2017, 4:32 pm
Labours Les Alden expressed concern at the lack of affordable housing agreed as part of recent developments
Labours Les Alden expressed concern at the lack of affordable housing agreed as part of recent developments

Labour leader Les Alden has criticised decisions taken last week, which saw developers fall short of Adur District Council’s 30 per cent affordable housing target.

Mr Alden said: “Adur (District) Council now seems to have abandoned that policy and accepts much lower figures from developers.”

The council’s target formed part of guidance in the 1996 local plan.

But a council spokesman said it ‘did not explicitly state 30 per cent would be sought’, instead drawing on guidance which had since been superseded.

Mr Alden, who sits on the council’s planning committee, was told at a meeting last Monday that under national planning policies, councils must now take into account the viability of developments.

Delivery of requirements such as affordable housing must enable ‘competitive returns’ for a developer.

The council has sought to address the issue by introducing a revised policy as part of its new local plan – set for public examination at the end of the month.

Rather than a blanket 30 per cent requirement, between ten and 30 per cent will be sought, depending on the size of the development.

The council currently seeks independent assessments of financial viability, which will continue as part of the new policy.

But a report to the planning committee last month reported the new policy would be challenged by objectors at examination.

Responding to Mr Alden’s claim, council leader Neil Parkin said: “He is talking nonsense. We take a pragmatic view and if it is not financially viable – and they can prove it and open their books – we can go for less.

“Otherwise, nothing gets developed. It is better to have a bit of something rather than a lot of nothing.”

Mr Alden said the council needed to negotiate ‘very carefully’ when the target was missed.

He called for fuller, open-book scrutiny of the developer’s figures, not just the independent valuer’s opinion.