Affordable homes scaled back on big new Devon housing estate

A controversial housing scheme on the outskirts of Paignton is likely to offer fewer affordable homes after would-be developers said they could not make it pay.

Torbay Council is now ready to allow them to build fewer low-priced homes, fearing that losing the whole development would leave them short of funds to complete long-awaited housing projects of their own in Torquay and Paignton.

The scheme on green fields at Preston Down Road will come before the council's cabinet committee later this week.

The previous Liberal Democrat/Independent coalition agreed to go ahead with building near Occombe Farm last year, despite local protests. Members stipulated that half of the homes built should be affordable, which is more than the council's usual policy of 30 per cent.

But now cabinet members will see a report which sums up more than a year of negotiations with a 'preferred bidder'. The developer says the current housing market is volatile and sales values are uncertain. Construction costs have also escalated and even meeting the 30 per cent affordability benchmark would be tough.

The council fears that losing income from Preston Down Road will have repercussions on delivering projects such as Station Square and Crossways in Paignton. The latter will offer extra-care housing.

If it was unable to generate enough money from Preston Down Road, it would have to borrow money from elsewhere, paying 'elevated' interest rates.

The cabinet is likely to vote to rescind the obligation to insist on 50 per cent affordable housing on the site.

A report to the meeting says: "The council is resolute that delivery of this site remains a key priority for the administration, both in terms of generation of a significant capital receipt essential for reinvestment into other key projects for Torbay but also in respect of stimulating the market to provide much-needed open market and affordable homes.

"The alternative option would be to proceed in line with the former cabinet decision. However this would result in a lower capital receipt which would undermine the council's capital programme delivery ambitions."