Released on 28 November 2018 Press Release
Last Wednesday, Stratford-on-Avon District Council Planning Committee (Cross Boundary) gave detailed permission to build 400 homes at Long Marston forming the initial phase of the Long Marston 'Garden Village', a new settlement of 3,500 homes, employment sites and village centre.
Cllr Daren Pemberton, Planning and Building Services Portfolio says: "This District Council's policy, which I wholeheartedly back, is that generally developments of more than 11 homes should include 35% of 'affordable homes' as a mixture of rented, shared ownership and discounted sale properties.
"On this occasion, permission has been granted with a contribution of 17.5% for affordable housing. As Portfolio Holder I agreed, in conjunction with senior District Council officers, the contribution and it is right that I explain to our residents why this lower percentage was agreed and supported by the planning committee.
"As the first phase of the 'Garden Village' the development includes significant additional infrastructure capacity to serve the wider site. At the same time the number of homes to be built is limited to 400 until the new relief road is built. These constraints impact the financial viability of the site and the developer, as they are allowed to do, sought a reduction in their obligations.
"CALA's opening stance was to offer no affordable housing at all. The Council instructed an independent expert to evaluate their numbers. During this process CALA offered a contribution of 12% comprising only shared ownership and discounted sale properties but no rented homes. Our expert advised that if every single element of his analysis was accepted without question a planning inspector might agree a maximum contribution of 24%. This is not an exact science and the risks were high for both sides.
"Ultimately, there was a negotiated agreement of 17.5% and crucially split equally between rented and shared ownership properties. This split is important because our analysis showed that a higher percentage might be achieved but that it would actually deliver fewer rented homes and more shared ownership. So, it was sensible to trade the top line percentage number to achieve the highest number of rented homes.
"Our expert advised that this was a good deal. In addition Homes England, providing £13.4m of funding, has to sign off the deal as good value for money. This has still to be formally agreed but, Deloitte, their expert has indicated that they are also happy with this contribution.
"Two further questions arose. Firstly, should we strip out the 'additional' costs and allocate them to the larger phase? Secondly, should we include a clawback mechanism to recover a sum of money if the site makes more money than projected?
"Retro-fitting infrastructure at a later date would be much more expensive and hugely disruptive for the new residents of phase 1. At the same time it would inevitably impact on the viability of the larger site. Importantly, every 1% increase achieved on the 400 site would secure an additional 4 homes but every 1% lost on the larger site would cost us 31 homes.
"Clawback was technically an option but Homes England would be at the front of the queue as they are providing a direct contribution. There is no scenario where CALA would make so much extra profit on the 400 site to repay Homes England £13.4m and then have something to pay the District Council. As such this was not included in the agreement that the planning committee approved.
"This was a complex case in balancing policy against securing the best level of rented housing in very unusual circumstances. I have said publicly that 'it is not difficult to make money building houses in this district' so I am intuitively against giving developers an easy ride and do not believe CALA have been let off lightly. The garden village will bring significant benefit to our residents over many years to come and as a District Council believe that the right balance has been struck on this occasion."
Stratford-on-Avon District Council
Elizabeth House, Church Street,
Tel: 01789 267575