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Developers 'letting people down' over affordable housing, says councillor

Criticism comes after Rushmoor Borough Council agrees to a development without any affordable housing

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People in Aldershot and Farnborough are being ‘let down’ by developers not fulfilling their quotas of affordable housing in their schemes, a councillor has argued.

On Wednesday of last week, Rushmoor Borough Council’s planning committee was told that plans for 22 homes in Redan Road, where Aldershot’s Territorial Army centre once stood, would no longer include any affordable homes because the site is unsuitable.

Despite two votes against, the plans for a central block of flats with two rows of terraced houses on the derelict plot near the football stadium were approved minus the seven affordable homes usually required by the council.

Affordable housing is social, rented or shared ownership homes that are provided at a lower cost for families that could not otherwise afford to buy or rent.

Targets are set by individual councils depending on need, cost of housing and wages, with Rushmoor demanding that 35% of homes built by developers fall into this category.

However, it is not a legal requirement to meet these targets and developers are able to negotiate to reduce this quota or remove it completely where they can prove that it would make the rest of the development financially inviable.

Councillor Jennifer Evans, who voted against the Redan Road application, said: “I think they are letting people down and in a way the council is letting people down by bowing to them time after time.

“I do think we should face them down to be honest and say, sorry, it must be possible, particularly in a place like Aldershot where people are crying out for affordable housing.”

A study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism last September showed that only around 40% of developments in Britain’s biggest cities included the specified number of affordable homes.

Rushmoor’s head of planning Keith Holland said the affordable quota was ‘not being ignored’ but rather being ‘taken into account’, and that the issue was not as prevalent in Rushmoor as some perceived.

In addition to the Redan Road scheme, he recalled only two other schemes in the last two years where the affordable housing provision had been renegotiated.

Last September, plans for a block of 58 flats in Birchett Road, Aldershot, were amended to reduce the number of those affordable from 19 to six, while five affordable homes required as part of the redevelopment of Aldershot’s Union Buildings, in Hospital Hill, in July 2012 were scrapped due to the scale of investment needed to transform the buildings.

Mr Holland said: “It is not a lot at all.

“When you see it in context with the total amount of residential development we have approved it is pretty miniscule.”

He did however promise to provide the committee with all the data showing the proportion of applications where affordable housing was reduced at its May meeting.

 
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