Fringe Box



Letter: What Does the North Street Contract Agree on Affordable Housing?

Published on: 6 Sep, 2023
Updated on: 6 Sep, 2023

St Edward’s revised southern and eastern elevations of “Block E” in the new planning application.

From: Robin Horsley

In response to: Would the Council Be Able to Purchase the North Street Site?

I cannot answer Ben Paton’s question regarding Guildford Borough Council’s contract with the current owner of the North Street development site in any more detail, as I haven’t seen the contract. I have taken the Lib Dem’s statement at face value.

Mr Paton raises a pertinent question about “affordable housing”. One would reasonably expect that any contract that had been negotiated and signed between GBC, and the owner of the site’s land that GBC did not already own, would explicitly require the developer to meet the Council’s clear policy of 40 per cent affordable housing in such schemes.

But as he says, “it does not appear that the council has any power to force a developer to build a higher proportion of ‘affordable’ flats”.

On the face of it, this does indeed seem to be the case. St Edward, the North Street developer did indeed only offer 20 units out of 473 flats in their original scheme as “affordable”. Surely this could not have contravened the contract it had signed? That doesn’t seem at all likely.

So if, as it seems, a contract was signed that did not stipulate that council policy be met in any proposed scheme why did this occur?

Surely it is the responsibility of councillors to ensure that their own council’s policies are met and not to sign contracts that might allow developers to avoid compliance?

Ben Paton alludes to the viability rules. These do provide a loophole that can enable developers to avoid council policies for affordable housing. This is widely and clearly understood amongst those with experience of planning and development.

I assume, but don’t know for certain, that as R4GV was in control of Regeneration and Planning policy in the previous 2019-2023 council it was their responsibility.

So I add these questions to Ben Paton’s question about the contract:

  • did the contract specify compliance with the affordable housing policy?
  • who negotiated it and agree it? and
  • if it didn’t require compliance with council policy then why not?

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