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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 15/03/2005
Future of a Council Owned Property in Godalming



Summary & Purpose
The Council owns a property in Godalming comprising seven flats. The property has a series of defects that are extremely costly to rectify.

This Committee and the Executive have previously received reports concerning this property, but as some time has elapsed, this report includes a full background to the matter.

In order to progress the situation, it is proposed that the Council should make a planning application for the demolition of the existing property and redevelopment of the site. Should the Committee agree that this is the most appropriate course of action, the Executive will be asked to agree that a planning application be made.

Quality of Life Implications
Natural Resource Use
Pollution Prevention and Control
Biodiversity and Nature
Local Environment
Social Inclusion
Safe Communities
Local Economy
Natural
Resource Use
Pollution
Prevention and Control
Biodiversity
and Nature
Local
Environment
Social
Inclusion
Safe, Healthy
and Active
Communities
Local
Economy
N/A
N/A
N/A
Positive
Positive
N/A
N/A


APPENDIX F
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL
COMMUNITY OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – 15TH MARCH 2005

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Title:
FUTURE OF A COUNCIL OWNED PROPERTY IN GODALMING

[Wards Affected: Godalming Charterhouse]
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Note pursuant to Section 100B(5) of the Local Government Act 1972

An annexe to this report contains exempt information by virtue of which the public is likely to be excluded during the item to which the report relates, as specified in paragraph 3 of Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, viz:

Information relating to any particular occupier or former occupier of, or applicant for, accommodation provided by or at the expense of the authority.

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Summary and purpose

The Council owns a property in Godalming comprising seven flats. The property has a series of defects that are extremely costly to rectify.

This Committee and the Executive have previously received reports concerning this property, but as some time has elapsed, this report includes a full background to the matter.

In order to progress the situation, it is proposed that the Council should make a planning application for the demolition of the existing property and redevelopment of the site. Should the Committee agree that this is the most appropriate course of action, the Executive will be asked to agree that a planning application be made.

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Quality of life implications – social, environmental & economic (sustainable development):

E-Government implications:

There are no E-Government implications arising from this report.

Resource and legal implications:

There are potentially significant financial implications arising from this report – depending on the course of action ultimately chosen by the Council.

The Council could choose to expend in the order of 700,000 to bring the existing property up to the Decent Homes Standard and address the defects identified in the property. Alternatively, the Council could pursue a redevelopment of the site, which though potentially more costly would provide a much better long-term solution. An alternative would be to dispose of the property/site on the open market and generate a capital receipt. However, the property has two secure tenants in occupation.

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Introduction

1. Both the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the Executive have considered earlier reports about a property known as Oakbraes, Frith Hill, Godalming (see location plan at Annexe 1 attached). However, as some time has elapsed, this report covers the issues raised in previous reports.

Background

2. Oakbraes is a 19th Century property with a 1960s addition. It is held by the Housing Revenue Account and comprises seven x 1- and 2-bedroom flats. The property has a series of structural and repair issues attached to it, which would be expensive to rectify – costing in the order of over 700,000 (some 100,000 per unit) see Annexe 2. Indeed, such are the structural problems that two of the ground-floor flats are deemed unfit for human habitation. None of the flats meet the Government’s Decent Homes Standard.

3. It is clear that whatever option is chosen to resolve the issues at Oakbraes, it would make sense for the property to be vacant when any works are undertaken – such is their magnitude. Over time, five residents have been satisfactorily re-housed, leaving two tenants in occupation. It would be fair to say that whilst the building is in a very poor condition, it is located in a pleasant residential area, one side of the building has fine views and some of the flats (including those occupied) are among the largest two-bedroomed properties owned by the Council.

Options

4. The Committee and the Executive were previously apprised of four main options available to the Housing Revenue Account:-

i. retention and modernisation;
ii. demolition and re-building;
iii. disposal to a registered social landlord (RSL) either for retention or redevelopment; or
iv. disposal on the open market.

Option 1 – Retention by the Housing Revenue Account

5. The cost of bringing this property back into a lettable standard is estimated to be in the order of 700,000.

6. Members previously concluded that it would be difficult to justify this level of expenditure on seven flats, when such a sum could benefit a greater number of tenants by bringing their homes up to the Decent Homes Standard where less expensive works are required.

Option 2 – Demolition and Redevelopment by the HRA

7. There is potential to demolish and redevelop the Oakbraes site, which, in the longer term, would provide more and better configured accommodation. The Council’s surveying staff consider that the best ‘all round’ approach would be to demolish and re-build.

8. Clearly, this approach would be subject to a satisfactory planning consent.

9. However, the HRA capital programme has no real scope to find significant capital resources to undertake such a course of action – unless other priority projects were deferred. Your officers do not consider it practicable for the HRA to pursue the option of demolition and redevelopment.

Option 3 – Disposal to a Registered Social Landlord

10. If the property were disposed of to an RSL for redevelopment, Waverley could potentially generate a capital receipt and would achieve nomination rights to any accommodation provided on the site.

11. The condition of the property and its configuration is such that an RSL would be likely to take a similar view as your officers (described in paragraph 7 above). Officers have explored, with RSL partners, whether it would be possible for a new build development of affordable homes to be achieved on this site. However, because of the problems associated with the site and the planning constraints, an RSL would find it difficult to make an affordable housing development financially viable within the Housing Corporation’s cost criteria.

Option 4 – Disposal on the Open Market

12. Whilst it would be possible to dispose of this property on the open market, it is likely that it would be redeveloped to maximise the site and provide open market housing.

Planning Considerations

13. A significant factor when assessing what can be achieved at Oakbraes is the planning obligations contained within the Local Plan. Oakbraes is situated on the hillside in Frith Hill Road, Godalming. The Council’s Local Plan describes this as an area of Special Environmental Quality.

14. The Local Plan (paragraph 4.10) reads: Frith Hill has been safeguarded by various planning policies since 1974. This wooded hillside overlooking the Lammas Lands is an essential part of the setting of the town centre, and is especially important from the River Wey and from the Burys Field. Policy BE2 seeks to safeguard this very important part of the character of Godalming.

15. Policy BE2 reads -

(a) maximum tree cover has been retained to preserve the wooded appearance of the hillside;
(b) existing residential amenity land is retained;
(c) development is along the road frontage on a limited basis and is not in depth or above the prevailing height of the trees;
(d) where older dwellings (e.g. Victorian or Edwardian) are to be replaced, it is to be by new residential buildings no greater in height, scale and massing.

16. Another factor that needs to be taken into account is that Oakbraes is situated on the side of a steep hillside and so the scope for developing a larger block of flats (in order to achieve better value for money) is constrained both by planning policy and the nature of the site.

17. Plans have been drawn-up for a new-build replacement building, which are generally acceptable to officers in the Planning Department. The plans will be displayed at the meeting. As members will know, when a department of the Council makes a planning application, should that planning application be refused for whatever reason, the applicant has no recourse to appeal – because the Council cannot appeal against its own decisions. So it is important that the Housing Department makes planning applications that are acceptable to the Planning Department and are likely to succeed.

18. The plans as drawn are for a replacement building that will be in keeping with the existing and neighbouring building, re-using some of the local stone in the present building. The building will comprise eight two-bedroom flats. At present, the flats are designed to meet the needs of the private market, but could be easily refined to meet the requirements of a social landlord.

A Way Forward

19. In order to make progress it is proposed that the Council should make a planning application for a replacement building to be erected on the Oakbraes site.

20. In the event that the tenants of the Council vote in favour of a stock transfer, the new housing association could receive Oakbraes with a view to it being re-built and then the flats re-let. The two existing occupiers could be temporarily rehoused and offered a new-build flat once completed. Because the new housing association would be receiving this accommodation with obligations to the Council and its tenants, some of the issues arising for existing housing associations (outlined in paragraph 11) do not apply in the same way.

21. In the event that the Council retains ownership of the housing stock in the longer term, the Council would need to make difficult decisions about relative priorities of various works. In this case, officers would recommend disposal of the site so that resources could be applied to other Council housing in order to help meet the Decent Homes Standard.

Secure Tenants

22. In order to obtain vacant possession, the Council would need to formally advise the remaining tenants of the Council’s proposals and give 28 days for the receipt of responses ((Exempt) Annexe 3 also refers). Having considered the responses, the Council will then need to determine whether it wishes to proceed with its course of action. If so, an application will need to be made to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to enable the Council to proceed to a County Court to seek possession. The Council will have to offer alternative suitable accommodation before the County Court will make an order in favour of the Council. The standard of proof required to satisfy the ODPM and the County Court that the Council is serious in its intent will be a planning permission.

Conclusion

23. It is considered that the best long-term solution to the structural defects at Oakbraes is for a redevelopment of the site. In order to progress matters, it is proposed that the Council make a planning application for redevelopment of the site.

24. Once planning permission has been achieved, the Council will then have a number of options before it and can determine which option would be best to pursue in the circumstances.

Recommendation

It is recommended that:

1. the Executive approves the proposal to demolish Oakbraes, Frith Hill Road, Godalming, with the intention to redevelop the site with eight x 2-bedroom flats; and

2. a first resolution in accordance with Regulation 3 of the Town and County Planning (General) Regulations 1992 be approved to allow a planning application to be submitted for the demolition of Oakbraes, Frith Hill Road, Godalming and the redevelopment of the site with eight x 2-bedroom flats.

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Background Papers (DoH)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.

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CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Mr J Swanton Telephone: 01483 -523375

E-mail: jswanton@waverley.gov.uk

comms/o&s2/04-05/083