Torridge District Councillors have voted overwhelmingly to progress the evaluation of 11 sites and parcels of council owned land for affordable or mixed housing development, in a landmark decision that delivers on one of the councils’ key strategic priorities. The debate at Full Council on Monday night followed on from a decision in July which authorised the commissioning of architectural and cost consultants to evaluate the inventory of council owned property and determine which sites would be suitable to progress for development and submission for planning permission. The funding for the study was provided by the Local Government Association (LGA) and the detailed reports generated for each site will form the background for drawing up planning proposals at the next stages.
In total councillors voted to progress 11 of the 12 sites evaluated, which included a mixture of council owned garage units, vacant land, car parks, and offices spread across multiple parishes. The proposals brought forward considered a number of key factors such as varying densities of housing on any given site, and in some cases the appropriate mixture of affordable and commercial value units to make some sites viable. The recommendation also considered the exiting use of the sites and striking a balance between preserving a proportion of the community, social or council benefit where this was appropriate or achievable.
The vote will now trigger meetings and negotiations with registered housing providers to discuss the potential for partnerships to build-out and manage the units as part of their housing stock. The decision will also sanction an approach to government bodies, Homes England and One Public Estate, to seek opportunities for grants and funding. The advantage of some of the sites were that they evaluated to be “shovel ready” which will hopefully make them more likely to be positively considered under criteria set for some of the funding.
The decision does not mean that housing will be developed for each of the sites as the studies so far have only confirmed that housing development is possible. More detailed proposals and a business case will be prepared and brought back to full council ahead of any planning application submissions. The proposals will be drafted in consultation with elected ward members, to ensure local views on any of the emerging schemes are included as part of the process.
The list of sites approved for further progression included:
Pynes Lane Garages, Bideford
Garages, Tuckers Park, Bradworthy
Land at The Crescent, Langtree
Land at Cliveden Road, Bideford East
Jackets Lane, Northam
End of Ethelwynne Brown Close, Bideford
Windmill Lane Offices and Car Park, Northam
Bone Hill Car Park, Northam
Springfield Car Park, Chanters Road, Bideford
Part of South Street Car Park, Great Torrington
Land at Cleave Wood, Bideford East
Councillor Ken James – Leader of Torridge District Council said:
“This was an important exercise to look at sites owned by the council and to bring forward those that were suitable for housing, which Councillors have previously agreed is a key strategic priority. The reports were commissioned to include a strongly weighted balance in favour of affordable or social housing and this will be our goal in decisions regarding the final agreement of designs for each site. I appreciate that in some instances this has asked for a sacrifice of the current or partial use of some sites but this was carefully weighed in respect of the urgent need for housing in each area. I thank councillors for their support in bringing the chosen sites a step closer to delivery.”
Councillor Rachel Clarke – Lead Member for Housing Options and Homelessness said:
“This is significant step towards delivering on our pledge to do everything we can as a council to alleviate the housing crisis affecting our residents in Torridge. The availability of affordable units seems to shrink with each passing quarter while prices have only increased. Anything we can do to reverse this trend is important and collectively we have taken a thoughtful approach to making a better use of some of our assets. I look forward to the final proposals being drawn up shortly and to see the plans implemented. In the meantime, we will also continue to look for other ways in which we can address this ongoing issue”