SPE­CIAL RE­PORT ON CITY HOUS­ING

The PT looks into the dif­fi­cul­ties of build­ing homes in Peter­bor­ough which are in­ex­pen­sive to buy or rent

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - NEWS - By Joel Lamy joel.lamy@jpress.co.uk Twit­ter: @PTJoelLamy

Peter­bor­ough’s hous­ing prob­lems have been in the spot­light over the last few weeks.

The Peter­bor­ough Tele­graph has high­lighted some of the dif­fi­cul­ties the city faces, with hun­dreds of fam­i­lies in tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion, home­less peo­ple moved in from Lon­don, de­vel­op­ers try­ing to re­duce the num­ber of af­ford­able homes they have to build and do­mes­tic abuse vic­tims stuck in a refuge as they can­not find some­where to live.

The an­swer to these prob­lems and the per­for­mance of Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil has drawn a mixed re­sponse from lead­ing politi­cians.

Coun­cil cab­i­net mem­ber for hous­ing Cllr Peter Hiller says he is “proud” of the author­ity’s per­for­mance, with Peter­bor­ough “grow­ing ex­po­nen­tially com­pared to other sim­i­lar sized cities in the UK,” But, Cllr Ed Mur­phy, leader of the op­po­si­tion Labour group, branded the author­ity’s hous­ing strat­egy a “sham­bles.”

Lib­eral Democrat group leader Cllr Nick Sand­ford said the fo­cus should be “less on hous­ing num­bers and more on build­ing homes to high en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards that peo­ple can af­ford to buy and with the fa­cil­i­ties nec­es­sary to cre­ate gen­uinely sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties.”

The coun­cil’s Core Strat­egy sets out a re­quire­ment for all de­vel­op­ments to have 30 per cent af­ford­able homes - a tar­get the author­ity has met since 2009. How­ever, land own­ers have been re­duc­ing the num­ber of af­ford­able homes at ma­jor devel­op­ment sites after claim­ing un­ex­pected costs meant the schemes were no longer vi­able.

In Septem­ber the East Of Eng­land Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety And Mil­ton (Peter­bor­ough) re­turned to the coun­cil’s plan­ning com­mit­tee which agreed to re­duce the af­ford­able homes pro­vi­sion from 30 per cent to 10 per cent for a 130 home devel­op­ment near the Show­ground.

Brexit and ex­cep­tional costs, in­clud­ing a new drainage sys­tem, were said to have made the scheme un­vi­able.

And in July the coun­cil’s plan­ning­com­mit­teeap­proved plans from Per­sim­mon Homes for an­other 153 homes at Cardea in Stan­ground, with only five per cent classed as af­ford­able.

And in Septem­ber 2015 Lands Im­prove­ment Hold­ings had the num­ber of af­ford­able homes it needed to build out of 350 prop­er­ties at the for­mer Peter­bor­ough Dis­trict Hos­pi­tal (PDH) site re­duced from 15 per cent to zero.

The PT re­cently sub­mit­ted a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion (FOI) re­quest to the coun­cil ask­ing to see all the doc­u­ments and cor­re­spon­dence re­lat­ing to that de­ci­sion.

The FOI showed the coun­cil was told the land value had de­creased by ap­prox­i­mately £3 mil­lion from the due dili­gence stage. A let­ter from plan­ning con­sul­tants Bid­wells stated: “We ad­vised there was an­tic­i­pated to be a good market for the site.” How­ever, de­vel­op­ers which were ap­proached to build on the land said they did not want to in­vest in the brown­field site. Bid­wells added: “As par­ties with­drew from the process, the feed­back we re­ceived was pri­mar­ily that they al­ready had suf­fi­cient ex­po­sure to the Peter­bor­ough market and there were al­ter­na­tive, pri­mar­ily green­field, lo­ca­tions in their land buyer area they sought to tar­get if they were buy­ing land at all.”

The coun­cil was also told from WSP Re­me­di­a­tion Ltd

0

The num­ber of af­ford­able homes to be built at the for­mer Peter­bor­ough Dis­trict Hos­pi­tal site.

£3m

The amount the land value of the for­mer hos­pi­tal site de­creased from the due dili­gence stage.

30%

The af­ford­able home re­quire­ment for all de­vel­op­ments in Peter­bor­ough.

“I think the hous­ing team are do­ing a crack­ing job.”

Cllr Peter Hiller

that the de­mo­li­tion cost had risen by £1.4 mil­lion. Sev­eral rea­sons were given for this, in­clud­ing dis­turbed as­bestos on the site through “van­dal­ism and de­te­ri­o­ra­tion.”

Cllr Stephen Lane of the Wer­ring­ton First group, who op­posed the re­vised PDH ap­pli­ca­tion when he was on the plan­ning com­mit­tee, said: “My feel­ing is a de­vel­oper when they sub­mit an ini­tial plan should be aware of the risk.”

A coun­cil spokes­woman said: “In the past two years the coun­cil has ap­proved some schemes that do not meet the 30 per cent tar­get.

“How­ever, the coun­cil has also ap­proved a num­ber of schemes pro­vid­ing over 30 per cent af­ford­able hous­ing.”

This in­cludes schemes in New Road, Wood­ston, and Manor House, Lin­coln Road, where all 62 homes on the two sites are classed as af­ford­able.

The spokes­woman added: “Some­times it is nec­es­sary to agree to go be­low our af­ford­able hous­ing tar­get on an el­i­gi­ble site to en­sure de­liv­ery of both af­ford­able and market homes to meet the needs of Peter­bor­ough’s hous­ing sec­tor and our growth tar­gets.

“Gov­ern­ment guid­ance states that where the ap­pli­cant is able to demon­strate the plan­ning obli­ga­tion would cause the devel­op­ment to be un­vi­able, the coun­cil should be flex­i­ble in its ap­proach.

“The coun­cil is ad­vised by the Gov­ern­ment not to seek af­ford­able hous­ing con­tri­bu­tions with­out re­gard to in­di­vid­ual scheme vi­a­bil­ity.”

Asked about plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions which re­duce the num­ber of af­ford­able homes on a site, Cllr Hiller said that with­out ac­cept­ing the changed schemes the de­vel­op­ments would not go ahead.

He also pointed out that there was cross-party sup­port when re­vised schemes with fewer af­ford­able homes were ap­proved. He added: “Ev­ery sin­gle case was looked at on an in­di­vid­ual ba­sis.

“We al­ways have open book ap­praisals and in­de­pen­dent ex­perts look­ing at them.

“I think the hous­ing team are do­ing a crack­ing job from a devel­op­ment point of view.”

Cllr Mur­phy said Com­mu­nity Land Trusts - which are set up and run by res­i­dents to de­velop and man­age homes - and hous­ing co-ops - where groups of peo­ple buy a prop­erty to live in - are the way for­ward. He added: “Where de­vel­op­ers sit on land banks be­cause the real con­cern is the profit line, the coun­cil should take di­rect con­trol and build so­cial hous­ing.”

Cllr Sand­ford added: “It can’t be right that we are the third fastest grow­ing city in the coun­try, yet we also have a big home­less­ness prob­lem. It im­plies that we build­ing too many of the wrong type of houses.”

Land at the for­mer Peter­bor­ough Dis­trict Hos­pi­tal site which will have no af­ford­able homes built on it

Cardea in Stan­ground

Cllrs Nick Sand­ford (left) and Stephen Lane

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