Sussex Councils want to curb ‘speculative’ development

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Council leaders in Sussex, including the Leader of Wealden District Council, have written to the Secretary of State about the reduction in house building because of Covid-19, and their concerns this could give rise to a surge of speculative and unplanned development.

Analysis by Knight Frank has suggested that housing delivery could be 35% lower than expected this year because of the pandemic.

The letter to Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, points out that with so much development on hold it is probable that Local Plans will be considered ‘out-of-date’. Having a Local Plan in place gives the local authority much more power to determine where development takes place in its area, and affords communities much greater protection against the threat of speculative development.

Future Development

However Wealden District Council had to withdraw their Local Plan, because they failed in their duty to co-operate with neighbouring authorities. Work has begun on developing a new plan. As part of this process, the Council wants to hear from landowners, developers and agents about locations suitable for future development.

In their joint letter to Robert Jenrick MP, council leaders highlight the resultant impact on the Government’s Housing Delivery Test (HDT).

The HDT assesses the number of homes built in a local authority area over the previous three years and compares these against housing requirements. Planning authorities which score below 95% have to produce an action plan setting-out the measures they intend to take to improve delivery.

Smaller & Affordable Housing

At last week’s virtual Cabinet meeting, Wealden District Council approved a new Housing Strategy for 2020 – 25.

New developments (of 10 dwellings or above) are required to provide 35% “affordable housing”. However, during the meeting (@ 20:14) Cllr Paul Sparks was concerned the threshold was not being reached:

Since 2016 1,960 homes have been built and 346 of those homes were affordable. That, in my simple maths, is 17 to 18 per cent, which is way below our requirement of 35 per cent.

In her reply, the Cabinet member for planning Cllr Ann Newton, said there is absolutely nothing the Council can do if a developer can show financial unviability.

Among other policies, the Housing Strategy calls for more one and two bedroom homes to be built within the district.

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