Rescue plan for affordable housing scheme in national park

Rescue plan for affordable housing scheme in national park
Rescue plan for affordable housing scheme in national park

A move to rescue one of the largest affordable housing schemes attempted in the Yorkshire Dales National Park looks set to be approved, following the viability of the venture being threatened by inflation.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee is being recommended to consider making what appears to be an exception in its  high-profile housing strategy when it meets tomorrow to consider a development under construction in Station Road, Sedbergh to build 49 homes.

Thirteen months after being granted consent for the scheme, which includes 15 open market homes, 17 affordable or social rented homes and 17 affordable shared ownership homes, Broadacres Housing Association has said the costs of delivering the properties has risen so sharply it could face a loss of more than £1m.

The not-for-profit charity’s planning consent was subject to a Section 106 agreement to secure the affordable housing in perpetuity and it was effectively policy compliant with 50 per cent affordable units, as part of the site was allocated in the authority’s Local Plan.

In an attempt to push forward much-needed affordable housing in the national park the authority’s rules state that on sites of 11 or more homes, 50 per cent must be affordable or alternatively 33 per cent affordable housing and 33 per cent local occupancy restricted housing.

Under changes proposed by Broadacres, just seven out of 29 houses would be secured as affordable housing through the Section 106 agreement, equating to 24 per cent.

Although this is considerably lower than the current policy requirement, Broadacres says it stands to lose £1.2m unless they secure grant funding.

In a letter to the park authority, a Broadacres spokesman said in recent months its contractor had experienced significant additional costs, primarily due to materials and labour costs inflation.

He wrote: “This put at risk our ability to deliver the scheme. With the support of the national park, we have negotiated some cost reducing revisions to the scheme, and Broadacres has agreed to underwrite a considerable additional contract sum to secure the completion of the development.

“This has had a very negative impact on scheme viability, and as a not-for-profit charity, this impacts our ability to continue to develop affordable homes.’

A planning officer’s report to the committee states there is a “compelling argument” to justify Broadacres’ request to remove a requirement for seven of the social rent properties to be let at an affordable rent.

The officer’s report states it is hoped with the changes the development will still deliver the level of affordable housing originally proposed.

It states there are relevant factors specifically relating to the costs of developing the site that would justify what, on paper rather than in practice, would appear to be a departure from the authority’s adopted housing strategy.

The report states: “The applicant has demonstrated that the development, which is under construction, is unviable to complete without the support of external funding from Homes England. Homes England in turn are precluded from funding the affordable housing whilst it is secured as affordable housing within the Section 106 agreement.

“Without external funding it is likely that the building contractor will withdraw from the development leaving a large building site with little prospect of completion.”