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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 13/11/2001
PROPOSED AFFORDABLE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT - CRANLEIGH



This report outlines proposals for an affordable housing development in Cranleigh. It is intended to help meet the housing needs of people with a local connection to the village who require affordable housing. The proposals are potentially controversial because the site is beyond the village envelope and would in ordinary circumstances, be an exception to planning policy. The report also includes background information as to how this proposal has evolved. The detailed funding issues are addressed in an (Exempt) Annexe to this report.

The report advises Members of the views and recommendations put forward by a joint Corporate and Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee, held on 1st November 2001, at the Godalming Baptist Church, when members considered whether there was merit in taking the proposals further given the level of housing need in Cranleigh. This report seeks approval to the appointment of a proposed Registered Social Landlord partner and to property transaction matters.

The financial and Asset Management implications of this proposal are dealt with in the (Exempt) Annexe to this report. There are significant environmental implications, should a development proceed. As the scheme is aimed at providing affordable housing for local people, it has important ‘Opportunities for All’ implications. There are no immediate human rights implications and no crime and disorder implications contained in this report.
APPENDIX M

WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE – 13TH NOVEMBER 2001

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Title:
PROPOSED AFFORDABLE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT - CRANLEIGH

[Ward Affected:Cranleigh East]
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Note pursuant to Section 100B(5) of the Local Government Act 1972

The 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 8 and 9 of Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, viz:-

The amount of any expenditure proposed to be incurred by the authority under any particular contract for the acquisition of property or the supply of goods or services. (paragraph 8)

Any terms proposed or to be proposed by or to the authority in the course of negotiations for a contract for the acquisition or disposal of property or the supply of goods or services. (Paragraph 9)
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Summary and Purpose

This report outlines proposals for an affordable housing development in Cranleigh. It is intended to help meet the housing needs of people with a local connection to the village who require affordable housing. The proposals are potentially controversial because the site is beyond the village envelope and would in ordinary circumstances, be an exception to planning policy. The report also includes background information as to how this proposal has evolved. The detailed funding issues are addressed in an (Exempt) Annexe to this report.

The report advises Members of the views and recommendations put forward by a joint Corporate and Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee, held on 1st November 2001, at the Godalming Baptist Church, when members considered whether there was merit in taking the proposals further given the level of housing need in Cranleigh. This report seeks approval to the appointment of a proposed Registered Social Landlord partner and to property transaction matters.

The financial and Asset Management implications of this proposal are dealt with in the (Exempt) Annexe to this report. There are significant environmental implications, should a development proceed. As the scheme is aimed at providing affordable housing for local people, it has important ‘Opportunities for All’ implications. There are no immediate human rights implications and no crime and disorder implications contained in this report.

Introduction

1. Some years ago, Cranleigh Parish Council was approached by the owner of land in Cranleigh, who wanted to assist the community by providing land with the intention of enabling the development of affordable housing for local people. The matter was referred to this Council as the housing authority. The land in question is adjacent to Wyphurst Road, Cranleigh. A location plan is attached at Annexe 1.

2. Plans were drawn-up for a development of some 90 properties and a consultation exercise was undertaken. There was considerable opposition to the proposed development. The owner of the site was concerned about the negative reaction and matters were put to one side for some years.

3. In the intervening years, housing need in Cranleigh has continued to grow – as, indeed, it has across the Borough. This is, in part, due to the relatively high house prices, high costs of private rent, the reducing number of Council properties for rent and wages not rising commensurately with the housing market. In addition, there are no obvious development sites in Cranleigh for affordable housing that are available to the Council to consider.

4. The landowner continued to be concerned about the lack of affordable housing for local people and was content for a revised proposal to be drawn-up for a smaller development of housing, offering the Council 12 acres of land in total. The matter is now being handled by executors as the landowner is deceased and the current proposal is for three acres of land to be developed for affordable housing. It would be intended that the remaining 9 acres should continue to be farmed (it is let to a tenant farmer) as at present.

5. In January 1999, the Policy and Resources Committee was asked to determine whether there was merit in pursuing this matter further and, if so, to give officers authority to enter into a conditional contract with the owner of the land adjacent to Wyphurst Road, Cranleigh. The Policy and Resources Committee resolved to pursue the matter further and a conditional contract was subsequently entered into.

6. Although not proposed at present, it would be only right to point out that, should this proposal be pursued, a further three acres of land immediately behind Wyphurst Road might be considered for development in years to come, were there a continuing housing need (this site is hatched on the location plan). However, officers propose that the land beyond the proposed development would not be developed because of the visual impact on the area.

7. This proposal is likely to be controversial for a number of reasons:

i. it would need to be a clear exception to the Planning Policy;

ii. a number of local residents along Wyphurst Road, would lose the country outlook at the back of their properties;

iii. there are local concerns about the impact of the development in terms of additional traffic, drainage and local services generally;

iv. a fear that this is the ‘thin edge of the wedge’ and further development would follow; and

v. that the housing would not be made available to local people – even though it is being proposed for this purpose.

8. At the same time, the Council as a housing authority is all too aware of the housing need in the Cranleigh area and the relatively low level of re-lets in its own housing stock in Cranleigh and the modest level of supply by housing associations in that area.

The Key Issue at Stake

9. The major policy issue for the Council is that the site being offered is beyond the developed area and the Council, as a Planning Authority, would not, in normal circumstances, approve a housing development on this site.

10. On the other hand, as a Housing Authority, the Council:

a. does not have land holdings in Cranleigh which can be made available for affordable housing;

b. has a growing number of households on its Housing Needs Register seeking accommodation in Cranleigh;

c. has a limited amount of affordable housing for families and re-lets in Cranleigh are few;

d. has been offered land on attractive financial terms which are such that a development of affordable housing for rent is viable.

11. Members will recall that a similar proposition was considered in 1992 when an affordable housing scheme was proposed on land at Furze Lane, Farncombe. At that time, the Council had to weigh-up the merits of the affordable housing development against the planning policy position.

Housing Need in Cranleigh

12. Information we have available about housing need and demand in Cranleigh is readily found from two sources – the Housing Needs Study 2001, undertaken by David Couttie Associates on behalf of the Council; and the Housing Needs Register.

13. The Housing Needs Study found that there was an overall shortfall of affordable housing as follows:
14. The Study identified a substantial unmet need for affordable social housing in Cranleigh – 86 properties. In addition, the local housing market was the most expensive in the Borough and consequently, for households on low or modest incomes, it is the most difficult area in which to secure affordable housing.

15. For the last two-bedroom Council house that became vacant in Cranleigh, there were 123 families hoping to be housed. For the last three-bedroom house that became vacant in Cranleigh there were 77 families hoping to be housed. For the last two-bedroom bungalow that became available in Cranleigh, there were 109 households hoping to be housed. Most of these households had some connection with the village.

Affordable Housing Supply in Cranleigh

16. The Council owns 525 homes in Cranleigh. A large number of these are designated for people of retirement age or over viz: Killicks (Community Warden) 18 units
Rydelands (Community Warden) 25 units
Upfold Close (Community Warden) 16 units

17. Last year, there were only 49 vacancies in Cranleigh in the Council’s housing stock and the majority of these were in accommodation that was one-bedroom and/or designated for the elderly. Of the 49 vacancies only 15 could be let to families and only 7 family-sized houses became vacant.

18. There are 64 rented properties (29 of which are for the elderly) owned by RSLs in Cranleigh and another 24 shared-ownership properties.

Land Availability in Cranleigh

19. The Council owns only three small portions of land that have development potential. The first is at Sherrydon and this site is due to be developed by First Step Housing Company for seven houses for shared-ownership. The Council owns a single plot in Wyphurst Road which is an access point into the site currently under discussion. It would be possible for this site to accommodate one house. There is a former garage site at Parsonage Road where a mobile home was once located and has development potential for one bungalow. There are no major private housing schemes anticipated to be developed in Cranleigh in the foreseeable future. There will not be any affordable housing arising from ‘planning gain’ on private sector sites in Cranleigh.

Development at Wyphurst Road, Cranleigh - Issues

20. There are a number of significant issues that arise from the proposal to use the land at Wyphurst Road, Cranleigh. These are:-

Affordable Housing in Cranleigh - Need and Supply
Land availability in Cranleigh
Value of Land being Proposed for Development
Planning Issues
Legal Considerations
Terms of the disposal of part of the land to the Registered Social Landlord partner

The Proposed Development

21. In accordance with earlier approvals, the Council entered into a conditional contract for the purchase of the land conditional on obtaining planning permission. Should the matter proceed, the Council would acquire 12 acres of land in order to retain control of future development. Of this 12 acres, it is suggested that 3 acres be developed in the near future and 9 acres retained as agricultural land as at present.

22. In the first instance, 3 acres could be developed to provide up to 47 dwellings by a Registered Social Landlord. In years to come, a further development of a similar number of dwellings could be pursued.

23. Your officers have been working with Downland Housing Group, which already owns property for rent in Cranleigh to work up plans for this proposed development. Downland is one of the Council’s preferred RSL partners for operating in the Cranleigh area. Downland has entered into a ‘partnering arrangement’ (in line with the Egan Report) with Osborne Housing, who are builders with a good track record of providing affordable housing in partnership with RSLs. Downland would expect Osborne Housing to be the development partner in connection with this scheme, should it proceed.

24. The current proposal is for 47 dwellings:

13 x 2-bedroom houses
11 x 3-bedroom houses
2 x 4-bedroom houses
5 x 2-bedroom bungalows
10 x 1-bedroom flats
6 x 2-bedroom flats

25. The scheme is intended to help meet the needs of people who are local to the village of Cranleigh. It would be expected that were a planning application to be approved it would contain a Section 106 planning condition that the dwellings would be made available to people with a local connection. The following are the usual criteria applied (in order of priority) in determining local connection:

people who have lived in the village for more than (say) 5 years
people who have employment in the village
people who have had to move away because they could not find affordable housing in the village and have strong local ties
people who need to move back to the village to support relatives

26. It is considered that there should be a mixture of dwellings for rent and for shared-ownership – 80% for rent and 20% for shared-ownership. This mix will help meet a range of local housing needs – particularly those who currently are overcrowded in small shared-ownership properties because family composition has changed.

27. It is expected that the Housing Corporation would provide funding to the RSL to finance the scheme.

Value of Land being Proposed for Development

28. At present, the land is in agricultural use with little or no ‘hope value’ for further development potential. However, with the dearth of available land, development sites at Cranleigh are at a premium and undoubtedly achieve high sale prices.

29. In this instance, Waverley controls the proposed access and this factor has been taken into account in negotiations with the vendor's agent.

30. The provisionally agreed price is detailed in the (Exempt) Annexe and can be considered to represent good value.

Legal Considerations

31. In line with previous authorities, the Council entered into a conditional contract to purchase the site; under this conditional contract, the Council and the owner have agreed that the transfer of the site to the Council would take place, subject to the granting of detailed planning permission for the proposed development. Should a planning application be unsuccessful the Council would expect to recover the deposit, together with interest. Should the Council determine not to proceed at this stage, it is possible that the vendor would expect to retain the deposit.

Planning Issues

32. The Local Plan shows the whole of the land the subject of this proposal to be outside the developed area of Cranleigh. The land forms part of the Rural Area beyond the Green Belt and the planning policy for such areas provides a presumption against residential development. It follows that any planning application to develop this land with housing will constitute a major departure from the Development Plan. Section 54A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 requires that:-

"Where in making any determination under the Planning Acts, regard is to be had to the development plan (i.e. the Structure and Local Plan) the determination shall be made in accordance with the Plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise."

33. Clearly, the need for affordable housing and any special opportunity which this proposal may offer to achieve affordable housing will be an important material consideration that the Council will wish to take into account in considering whether it is prepared to permit a development which would represent a major departure from the Development Plan.

34. In addition to the principle of a conflict with Development Plan policy, the Council would need to consider the environmental implications of development and the views of local residents. Other issues which would need to be considered include the implications of additional traffic on the local residential road network; the need to deal with any other infrastructure implications, e.g. water supply, foul and surface water drainage (both on and off-site) and the loss of agricultural land.

View of Cranleigh Parish Council

35. The Parish Council acknowledges there is a need for more affordable housing - particularly rented accommodation. The Parish Council has been supportive of affordable housing schemes that have been developed in the village in past years.

36. The Parish Council has been advised of these proposals although it has not, as yet, formally come to any firm conclusions about this proposal.

Public Consultation Exercise

37. By way of opening the debate with local people, a Public Consultation Exhibition was held at the Cranleigh Arts Centre on the afternoon and evening of Friday 26th October and the morning of Saturday 27th October 2001.

38. The Exhibition showed the proposed plans, provided information about housing needs, and who the affordable homes were for – i.e local people. New Downland Housing Association was present, as was the proposed builder – Osborne Housing.

39. The Exhibition was well attended – so much so that officers lost count of the number of attendees. However, some 81 comments were entered in the comments book and not all who attended did so. The comment book will be available at the meeting for Members to view. It would be fair to say that there was a mixture of response to the proposals.

40. Virtually no one questioned the need for affordable housing. Only two people suggested alternative sites – one to build on Smithbrook Common and one to build on the Arriva Bus Depot in Cranleigh.

41. Local residents were concerned about:

the loss of amenity and outlook;
traffic impact, particularly as the schools generate a lot of traffic at the beginning and end of the school day;
drainage;
the principle of making an exception to planning policy;
the properties being made available to asylum seekers, people leaving mental hospitals and ex-offenders
the reduction in the value of their property
the impact on services generally in Cranleigh and whether they could cope.

42. Many of those objecting to this particular proposal expressed the view that there was a housing need in Cranleigh. A significant number of people came to apply for the properties.

Environmental Implications

43. The Council will be ensuring that the social housing to be developed will be consistent with the LA21 Agenda and is sustainable.

44. The properties to be constructed will meet high standards of energy efficiency, thus contributing to the requirements of the Home Energy Conservation Act 1985 (HECA). It is intended that the building materials used will comply with the Council's Environmental Charter.

Financial Implications

45. The Housing Revenue Account will, potentially, be purchasing 12 acres of land at the price detailed in the (Exempt) Annexe for which provision has been made in the 2001/2002 Capital Programme. It is proposed that three acres of land will be disposed of to New Downland Housing Association for the development of 47 dwellings.
Observations by the Joint Corporate and Communtiy Overview and Scrutiny Committee

46. Members considered the proposals in the round and confined their considerations to the housing needs and property issues arising from the proposals. Members were advised that the Joint Committee was not considering the planning merits and that Waverley, acting as a Planning Authority, would make its own judgements on the merits of the application when made to it.

47. The Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee addressed itself to the following matters:

2. Putting to one side the planning issues, should the Council as a Housing Authority be supporting a development of affordable housing on this site?

3. Are the financial and property transactions detailed in the (Exempt) Annexe agreeable and to be commended?

48. Some members made the point that support for these proposals should not proceed unless the Parish Council also welcomed the development scheme. Queries were raised as to the likelihood of future housing development on the site and officers responded by stating that there were no plans for future development but if, in future, a need was identified then the matter would be raised and dealt with in the same considered manner in which these proposals were being discussed. The strong view was expressed that housing was an absolute need and an absolute right and to deny local people the opportunity of continuing to live in their own community would be a retrograde step. In addition, it was asserted that the village of Cranleigh needed young people to keep the village alive and that there was no doubt as to the need for affordable housing.

49. Members asked the Director of Housing to review the 80:20 split of rental properties to shared-ownership properties and also to research the true level of concealed households present in the village. Firstly, because the issue of affordability might be such that the percentage of shared-ownership tenants should be lower still. Secondly, that if the number of concealed households in Cranleigh were shown to be significant then fears over traffic and other issues could diminish.

Corporate Strategy

50. This proposal meets a number of the Corporate Objectives in partnership with others

secure affordable accommodation to a standard which meets people's varying housing needs within the Borough contribute to an infrastructure that builds a prosperous and accessible local economy.

51. In terms of the Housing Objectives, the provision of affordable and subsidised housing in an area of high housing prices such as Cranleigh would be met.


Conclusion

52. Officers, and the Joint Corporate and Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee, consider that there is a strong housing case to be made for an exception to planning policy in the Cranleigh area. It is, therefore, proposed that there is merit in supporting this proposal further.
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Recommendation

The Joint Corporate and Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommends to the Executive Committee that:

1. there is a need for affordable housing in Cranleigh to warrant pursuing this project further;

2. it is appropriate for the Council as a Housing Authority to support New Downland Housing Association’s proposals in respect of land adjacent to Wyphurst Road, Cranleigh;

3. the financial and land transactions, in accordance with the proposed recommendation as set out in the (Exempt) Annexe be approved, subject to obtaining planning permission;

4. the cost of any off-site works, which may be a requirement of the Planning Authority, should be met by New Downland Housing Association; and

5. the remaining 9 acres of land be leased or licensed for agricultural purposes, subject to appropriate legal safe-guards in the best interests of the Council.
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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 D January Telephone: 01483 - 869096
Email: djanuary@waverley.gov.uk