Developer allowed to back out of promise to build affordable homes in Derbyshire
Councillors have allowed a developer to back out of a promise to build affordable houses in a Derbyshire town
The developer, Langridge Homes Limited, says it cannot afford to build the affordable homes in Peasehill Road, Ripley.
It claims providing the affordable homes would make the Church Farm scheme financially unviable.
Amber Valley councillors had rejected the developer’s move to ditch the promised affordable housing in April, but the firm has come back again now the authority has transitioned from Labour control to the Conservatives.
This time around, at a meeting this week,the authority approved the plans by six votes in favour, to four against.
The developer is looking to build the final 87-home phase of the 349-home development, originally approved in June 2015.
It had agreed to build 28 affordable homes as part of that phase, but applied to ditch this promise in its entirety.
After a challenge from an independent valuer, appointed by the council, this has been changed to retain eight affordable homes – a loss of 20 properties for those unable to gain one via the open market.
Rae Gee, a council planning officer, says the “abnormal costs” raised by the developer include underground sewer infrastructure which needs to be removed.
Homes for sale on the site are priced from £300,000 and above.
The developer had claimed building the 28 affordable homes would lead to a loss on the scheme of £2.76 million.
It previously blamed Brexit leading to a surging cost of building supplies and a “scarcity of labour as European construction workers started to disappear”.
At last night’s meeting, Cllr Fay Atkinson said: “Nothing has changed since we last heard this in April and we were more than reasonable.
“This is clearly something being done just for profit instead of for public interest.
Cllr Dave Wells feared the council would set a precedent in which developers would repeatedly come back to the authority after gaining approval and agreeing to affordable homes, saying they cannot afford to build them.
He said the latter phase of the scheme had already moved from proposing a mix of semi-detached, terraced and detached homes to a phase of purely detached homes.
Cllr Wells said: “The developer says that Brexit led to an increase in construction costs. Now if it led to a decrease, would they have built more affordable homes or would they just have pocketed the extra money? I think we all know the answer.
Cllr Paul Hillier, deputy leader of the authority, said: “It is uncomfortable and I share these concerns, but if we turn it down and the independent valuer says they won’t defend it it could just win at appeal.
“Something is better than nothing, half a loaf is better than no loaf. Our policy (for 30 per cent affordable housing) is not changing and the council is still committed to that.”
Cllr Atkinson said: “I still believe there will be a flood of developers putting forward applications to do this as well, thinking this is a loophole. It just seems wrong to me.”
Cllr John Walker said: “This will be 20 young families who may have been able to afford a property who now may not be able to.”