Affordable homes U-turn demanded

Thursday 27th September 2012 10:00 pm

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South Hams councillors have launched a protest over changes to planning laws which will let developers off the hook when it comes to building affordable homes.

And they are demanding Government coalition's new housing minister Mark Prisk order a U-turn over the controversial changes.

For more than a decade, the district's council top priority has been the promotion of affordable homes in an area that boasts some of the highest house prices in the country.

The council tries to insist that at least half the homes in any major new development in the district should be affordable – either for rent or shared ownership.

But Government plans to introduce new legislation which will make this more difficult – if not impossible.

The Government claims the changes are being brought in to make it easier for developers to build more homes and help give the flat economy a boost.

But South Hams Council has voted almost as one to tell the Government to stop.

They agreed a motion declaring: 'This council is disappointed with the Government's recently proposed changes to planning legislation and specifically with reference to affordable housing.

'Rather than reducing the amount of affordable housing the Government should be increasing the number.

'We will write to the Local Government Association supporting their efforts to halt the proposals.'

The motion was put forward by Liberal Democrats Julian Brazil and Keith Baldry but it was backed by South Hams Council's Tory majority. Cllr Brazil said the proposed Government changes to the planning legislation was a 'terrible idea' as he asked: 'Do we have houses as somewhere for people to live or do we view them as investment and a way of making the economy bubble?'

He added: 'I think that it is about housing need and the need is for affordable housing,' and warned that if the changes are allowed to go ahead the district would see 'very little affordable housing' delivered in the South Hams.

'This flies in the face of what has always been this council's top priority in the South Hams – the supply of affordable homes for young working families.'

And his fellow Liberal democrat Keith Baldry added: 'It is up to local councils to decide whether schemes are viable when they include a percentage of affordable houses.'

And he claimed that the proposed changes were a Government 'gut' reaction aimed at getting publicity.

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