Extra care home funding approved - as developers’ contributions slashed by central government

Cllr Julie Redfern said she could not support the loss of developers' contributions for ten and less

Cllr Julie Redfern said she could not support the loss of developers' contributions for ten and less dwellings. - Credit: Archant

A further fall in funding for affordable housing has triggered dismay among councillors, following a far-reaching change in government policy.

Uttlesford District Council’s cabinet member for housing, Councillor Julie Redfern, told the Reporter she was unable to vote for the new policy, which will mean developers building less than 11 houses on a site in the district will no longer have to contribute towards affordable housing.

“I felt I couldn’t support that in good conscience,” said Cllr Redfern, who abstained from the vote at the Cabinet meeting last Thursday, along with Cllrs Jackie Cheetham and Alastair Walters.

“To be honest I think it’s absolutely shocking. We were doing a lot for affordable housing, and this is really disappointing,” she added.

Under a Section 106 agreement, all councils were able to ask developers for money towards local infrastructure and housing in the area.

For sites of 10 or fewer dwellings, but with a combined gross floor space of more than 1000sqm, developers were asked to contribute 200 per cent of a building unit. With the cost of one unit set at £125,000 for the financial year 2014/15 and 2015/2016, this effectively means the district will be losing £250,000 for affordable housing per development every time a site of 10 or fewer dwellings is built.

With the exception of Saffron Walden, Stansted and Great Dunmow, Uttlesford had been defined as a “designated rural area”, in which sites of five or fewer dwellings would be exempt from contributions, rather than 10.

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But an alteration to the definition of “rural”, announced on Thursday night, now defines all areas in Uttlesford as “urban”, meaning all sites of 10 or fewer units will be exempt from the contributions.

Deputy leader Cllr Susan Barker expressed her concerns to the chamber.

“This further amendment will result in a reduction of affordable housing and financial contributions, which will further restrict our ability to provide much-needed affordable housing for our residents,” she said.

“This is a retrograde step and I would ask you as leader of this council to write to the appropriate minister and our MP expressing our serious concerns.

“We have no option but to adopt this policy as it is national guidance, but do so very reluctantly.”

According to a spokesman for Uttlesford District Council, there are currently 4,100 people in affordable housing, with 2,800 in council properties, and 1,300 in Housing Association properties.