The EDDC Local Plan Panel met yesterday (Tuesday 20th September) at The Knowle, to continue their work on a planning blueprint for East Devon this week focused on affordable homes and Neighbourhood Plans, with tough times ahead for housing providers.
Members heard how the challenge of providing affordable housing fits into the wider planning picture for the district as part of their comprehensive research before a firm set of proposals is drawn up in the autumn.
The LDF Panel’s meeting was the latest in a series designed to produce a planning guidance document running from 2011 for the next 15 years to 2026.
Setting the ball rolling was EDDC’s Head of Housing, John Golding, who told the Panel that EDDC needed to provide affordable housing at a significantly greater rate than at present, but that Government funding for such schemes could be cut by 60% whilst rents could rise by up to 30% for new tenants.
Mr Golding said: “In the last financial year we delivered 108 new affordable homes, including 17 Council own-build properties. To meet known housing needs, we must be providing more like 230 – 250 new affordable homes each year. The Local Plan and emerging Local Development Framework policies are central to our ability to deliver affordable housing to meet our ambitions”.
He added that most schemes in East Devon in recent years have been negotiated as a planning contribution and many have received a sizeable grant from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to assist delivery.
Future HCA grants are expected to be significantly lower than in previous years, with the likely grant rate being around £18,000 per unit, compared with approximately £55,000 per unit in the previous funding programme.
John added: “We are working closely with Planning Policy colleagues as they develop the new planning policy in the Local Plan/LDF. We want to ensure that affordable housing remains a major consideration.
“As part of the evidence base for LDF policies, consultants have reported to you on affordable housing viability across the district. This piece of work will help to identify the realities of what we can expect a developer to reasonably deliver in terms of affordable housing when considering scheme viability. The research shows that the 40% we currently expect may need to change in lower value areas.
“This may mean that we have different affordable housing percentages in different areas of East Devon”.
The Panel received a report on how the Coalition Government’s Localism Bill aims to reform the planning system to give people new rights to shape the development of the communities in which they live.
The Bill proposes a new type of community-led initiative known as a Neighbourhood Plan, setting out policies on the development and use of land in a parish or ‘neighbourhood area’. Once such a plan is made, and adopted, it will become a main consideration within the planning system.
In East Devon, housing numbers are allocated to the towns and villages through the East Devon Local Plan. The District Council, who produce the Local Plan, recognise that some communities may wish to have a greater say in where development is located, the type of development and may wish for additional development, for instance to help deliver a new facility. Neighbourhood Plans would provide the means to achieve this.
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Mike Allen, Panel Chairman, said: “We have heard today just how big a challenge we are facing in terms of providing homes for people on low incomes in an area of high house prices, with reduced support from Government.
“It will take all our ingenuity and determination to make this happen, but make it happen we must. Our Planning Policy team will need to take account of the dynamics of the housing market and seek solutions for first time buyers as well as taking account of retired people’s needs and ensuring affordable homes for key professionals such as nurses, carers or people with learning disabilities.
The team will weigh all the latest data, plus Government guidance, in coming up with a draft Local Plan that helps us to deliver these homes whilst protecting and enhancing the superb landscape that we all cherish.
“We may also have to face the possibility that our preferred 40% rate of affordable housing in some developments may have to change in some parts of the district”…
This further confirms the crucial importance that we mobilise as a Trinity community to ensure that the future shaping of our villages and AONB truly reflect the views of our Ward and Village Communities.
Do you support the conclusions being drawn so far?