Council to lobby Government over rules affecting affordable housing delivery

Secretary of state for communities and local government Sajid Javid.
Secretary of state for communities and local government Sajid Javid.

Worthing councillors have urged the Government to look again at rules they say are frustrating efforts to boost the town’s chronic shortage of affordable housing.

Labour’s Beccy Cooper secured cross-party agreement to write to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid over concerns developers were claiming significant reductions in payments to build lower-cost affordable homes.

The Herald unveiled the extent of the problem in October when it was revealed government planning rules had left a £2million gap in funds which could have been collected. Click here for the full story.

Addressing full council on Tuesday, Mrs Cooper said: “No-one is saying developers can’t make a fair profit but this must be balanced with a fair deal for the community.”

Mrs Cooper’s motion – a draft letter to Mr Javid – said viability of developments ‘unfairly reduces the ability of the council to secure contributions’ in line with its own policies.

It said reports of developers’ finances were not available to press and public to scrutinise and was ‘contrary to the Government’s commitment to open local government’.

Discounts applied if buildings were empty, meanwhile, had ‘created a loophole’ which left the policy open to interpretation.

The letter ended by calling on Mr Javid to review the rules and provide new guidance for councils and developers to address concerns.

The motion was seconded by Conservative councillor Paul Yallop.

Also chairman of the planning committee, Mr Yallop said he would like to see all viability reports made public.

He said: “The problem we have got at the moment is viability isn’t a major issue for developers because they know they don’t have to value engineer their schemes because any additional costs come straight off affordable housing contributions. That can’t be right.

“I do think there is a problem. The system is broken as far as Worthing is concerned.”

The motion was unanimously backed by all parties.

The council also approved a motion from Liberal Democrats councillor Hazel Thorpe calling for a feasibility report on an ethical landlord scheme.