Tag Archives: affordable housing

Melton Hill – the wedges strike back

New plans for the Melton Hill development have been submitted- and surprise, surprise, they are pretty much the same as before. If you want to write, do so by Thursday 25th  July (Link here – though you will be given a little latitude to get in submissions after this date. However officers will start examining the application week beginning 29th July ).                   

Here is my response

I am writing as County Councillor for Woodbridge to comment on new plans submitted for the  Melton Hill development of the former Suffolk Coastal District council offices.

These seem to be very similar to the original plans, which is disappointing.

Current national planning policy “seeks to significantly boost the supply of homes through a sufficient amount and variety of land that will come forward where it is needed, to meet the needs of groups with specific housing requirements”.

Accordingto the Suffolk Coastal Local Plan, the District Council “shares the government’s ambition and is seeking to deliver sustainable communities across the District.”

It seems strange therefore that the significant need that clearly exists in Woodbridge: indeed the overwhelming need for affordable housing for the town’s young families, home-leavers, down-sizers, people with disabilities, low-earners is not at the heart of this development.

It is also strange that in the very recent past the district council had proposed extending the conservation boundary for Woodbridge town to include such buildings as “Council Offices No 112 Thoroughfare – A substantial mid nineteenth century classical villa constructed of white brick with projecting eaves and a slate roof. Much of its original external joinery survives,“ and even mentioning favourably the mid C20 redbrick council offices next to it. The rationale was clear: “extending the conservation boundary would contribute significantly to safeguarding the setting of the GII listed Maltings cottage, Melton Hill, and no  42 Deben Road, … It would also afford protection to a number of presently unlisted structures that make a strong positive contribution to the character of this part of town.”

Surely the only reason this aspiration can have been omitted from the recent consultation on Woodbridge’s Conservation boundary is because elements within the District Council have predetermined that 112 Thoroughfare should be destroyed –  to facilitate development of a frontage containing the brick, aluminium and concrete ‘Block E”? This cannot be right. Continue reading Melton Hill – the wedges strike back

Could Melton Hill development plans get worse? Yes!

Still undeveloped, still unaffordable?

So, a new planning application has been made by Active Urban for the old SCDC office site at Melton Hill.

Does it differ from the last? Only in that it  now wants to offer 15 affordable homes instead of 33!!! 

Hard to believe. But they are apparently trying to take advantage of sonething called Vacant Buildings Credit (VBC)- an incentive to encourage development on brownfield sites. The fact that SCDC offices were only vacated to  sell for development has apparently slipped their goldfish minds and escaped their elastic consciences.

I cannot say how angry I am that this new application cynically prioritises monetisation of the site above the legacy benefits of providing for local need.

So Active Urban were apparently unable to deliver the required modest number of affordable housing units they were originally obligated to provide? Tough!

The answer cannot be to reduce the number of affordable units by two thirds! It must be to change the intention of the scheme – or change the developer.

At a meeting of Woodbridge Town Council’s Planning Committee I was one of five public speakers raising our concerns. There was no dissent.

As I reiterated, local people desperately need housing – but not the housing that developers want to build. We need starter homes, affordable family homes, homes for the disabled and downsizers. Active Urban want to build prestige homes, second homes, homes that exclude more and more local families. Why accept it?

Remember – Melton Hill wasn’t owned by the district council– it was held in trust for us by our elected and appointed servants. And ‘us’ means each and every one of us, rich and poor alike. The district council and its planning committee should respond to local need – not local greed.

Every week, I see families who’ve lived in Woodbridge for generations and whose children and grandchildren are now excluded from their hometown. Disabled people who must leave their support network. Old people who can’t even afford to downsize in the town they grew up. Our streets are filling with second homes, country bolt holes, investment properties, holiday lets, serving no residential use whatsoever.

We residents need the services of those who have been displaced. Who have to drive in, adding to already-chronic traffic and air quality problems. This development could either add to the problem or provide a solution.

I see from Carter Jonas reapplication the promise of 33 “affordable” (affordable, mark, not social housing) units has melted into 11.

Yes, ELEVEN.*

*The full application has generously increased this to 15.

Which, if agreed, will doubtless be as airy and insubstantial in actuality as the promised 33 of the last application.

I say that this entire flawed plan simply isn’t the answer. Local people – who have paid their council tax to fund Melton Hill – have significant unmet needs. Why don’t we start from there?

I have said this many times before: Woodbridge doesn’t need more high end housing.

It absolutely does need housing at social rent (that’s 65% of market rental value) for all those we rely on. Retained firefighters, care workers, shop assistants, young families, the teachers who can’t afford to live near our schools. The working twenty-somethings who can’t afford to leave home. Nurses, police, paramedics…

Over the years right to buy has caused Woodbridge to lose more and more of the key rental stock needed to let these valuable workers live in town.

I asked Woodbridge Town Council planning committee to reject this application – and they unanimously did! Their concerns are the concerns of everyone who lives in and loves our town.

Sadly not a single one of Woodbridge’s three district councillors were at the planning meeting, although two are also Town Councillors. Yet this development is probably the single most important issue to affect the town of Woodbridge  since  bombs  dropped on Castle Street and St Johns Hill a century ago. Electors take note.

I now call on the District Council to re-evaluate its priorities, put the town and residents of Woodbridge first and look strategically at development.

The benefits of developing the Melton Hill site – our site – as a Community Land Trust to provide (impossible to sell via r-t-b) housing at truly affordable rent  would be a magnificent legacy for the future and cover the council in glory.  I’ve proposed it before. I do so again.

Will the District Council listen?

Housing Day : what Suffolk needs

Today is #HousingDay.

Do you know people desperate for to find or afford somewhere to live?   In this county – with new built estates rising everywhere – I know plenty.

The answer? Simple. We need to stop pandaring to the free market -which is creating ever more homes and second homes for the affluent – and start planning and building the housing that everyday people need.

Purpose-built council housing. For those starting out,  for young families, the disabled, the low waged (public sector workers for example) , those that need to downsize.

Abolish that strangest of all supposed human rights  – the ‘right to buy.’ Replace it with “the right to have a truly affordable roof over your head.” (And don’t let those weasel words ‘affordable housing‘ con you. It means 80% of market rates. In an area where houses cost £1m to buy, thousands per month to rent ‘affordable housing’ is, what? We need social housing because that alone is truly affordable).

And we must stop mouthing all this ‘let the market decide’ malarkey. The market consists of builders who – given the choice – want to build high end executive homes because they make the best profit. What do we need? Homes for the young, the young families, the disabled, the low waged, the elderly. Homes for everyone who makes up our society – or we lose it.

Not necessarily homes to own. One of the reasons ‘social housing’ sometimes gets such a bad press is that there is now so little of it keft that it may be more likely to be let to people with the most significant problems or needs – and thus give it an unfair reputation.

Yet why shouldn’t many more people live this way? It happens elsewhere without difficulty. It used to be the way of life here.

Home ownership was an anomaly of the second half of the twentieth century

When I was young, lots of low-waged people were able to live in the centre of towns and cities. In solid Victorian terraced council houses now sold off under right to buy, worth a million or so, and maybe not even lived in full time by those that now own them. Even at rental income, way outside the pockets of your average working family.

And the people who our towns and cities need and rely on (teachers, nurses, carers, firefighters, young workers etc) sofa-surf, commute incredible distances or plain give up.

An end to laissez faire, say I. Let’s constrain the free market and go back to the politics of common sense – and have a solid practical unflashy homes policy built on the needs of the people rather than what companies and organizations want to build!