Affordable homes plan for Castle Point refused

Plans to build dozens of affordable homes on green belt in Castle Point have been refused despite the land being formally recognised as a satisfactory place to build.

Legal & General Affordable Homes wants to construct 44 affordable dwellings including open space and playspace on a plot of land to the rear of Hart Road in Thundersley.

The site is allocated for residential purposes in the council’s new local plan – despite not yet being adopted by Castle Point Borough Council – based on a detailed balance of the strategic value of the site as green belt and the requirement to identify sufficient land to meet identified housing needs.

Although the wider HO20 site which Castle Point Borough Council has been told could take more than 400 homes has been deemed sound by the inspector and which can be developed in increments, the council says there are unresolved concerns around the local plan allocation such as green belt development and these need to be resolved before the site can be judged properly.

The proposal seeks to provide 100 per cent affordable housing for which there is a significant unmet need in the borough.

Anette Simpson, director of development and partnerships for Legal & General, told the council planning committee on June 14: “We are in the midst of a housing emergency and a cost of living crisis where not enough affordable homes are being delivered to meet need.

“There are nearly 600 households on the council’s housing waiting list. The average house price is now over 12 times the average local salary and this development will enable home ownership to local people for less for 30 less than purchasing homes on the open market.

“All the affordable rent homes will be offered at rents less than 80 percent of market rent in the local area,l the site is privately owned, it is not publicly accessible, it is not part of the borough’s open countryside. It is very different to the typical greenbelt land.”

The land is part of a larger plot that had been set to be included in Castle Point Borough Council’s formal housing plans before it was decided not to adopt it and to start the process again in March.

It means the council may now have little more than 20 months to devise an improved version before the Government intervenes to decide where its allocation of around 5,000 homes should go.

While voting against it, the council made it clear it is not being withdrawn altogether.

Councillor Jacqui Thornton told the committee on June 14: “It is a very good opportunity and we do need the affordable housing and the social housing. Unfortunately it’s in the green belt and the local plan hasn’t been determined.

She added: “Now there are unresolved objections quite significant unresolved objections to the emerging local plan and therefore I think the National Planning Policy Framework is triggered in this instance and I think that the application is premature and should come through the local plan process.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter