Agenda item

Amendments to the Breckland Housing Allocations policy

Report of the Executive Member for Growth, Councillor Gordon Bambridge.


The Executive Member for Growth introduced the report and invited the Executive Manager for Growth to present the report in greater depth to Members.


Members were informed that the current housing allocations policy was structured in a way that affordable housing within Breckland was ring-fenced for households with a local connection to the District and priority for housing was awarded to local households in the highest housing need. The only exception to that was where homes were built on ‘exception sites’, which were typically prioritised for households with a connection to the parish where the homes had been built.


Separately to the processes relating to housing allocations, a number of Parishes across the District were developing Neighbourhood Plans.  As a result local communities were asking for a proportion of affordable housing delivered on sites allocated through the local plan process to be prioritised for households with a local connection to that specific settlement.  However, there were a number of legal impediments that made it difficult for the District Council to support this approach, mainly a legal requirement to allocate affordable housing to those in highest need.


The Chairman asked if applications were received on a local need first could the second let be to anyone across the District.  It was confirmed that this was how the Policy would be applied if agreed, but there would be scope to extend this beyond first let if members were minded to support that approach. 


The Executive Member for Growth suggested that the proposed policy would satisfy a current need, however it was recognised that the Council would need to consult on any policy changes ahead of implementing any changes. 


Councillor Oliver queried ring-fenced for the first let, but not for the second, and questioned if this was a legal requirement. The Executive Manager for Growth set out that the proposal for the ring-fence to apply only on first let was a proposed approach, but a policy choice open to the Council. Councillor Oliver enquired as to why the policy could not apply in areas where neighbourhood plans were not being developed. The Executive Manager for Growth set out that the legal advice received by the authority was clear that applying local ring-fences on sites allocated to meet district-wide need carried with it a high risk of successful legal challenge from households who would be disadvantaged through such a policy, including those to whom the Authority had a statutory duty to award higher priority, such as households that were owed a duty under homelessness legislation. The Executive Manager for Growth set out that the approach proposed within the paper carried with it a substantially lower risk of successful challenge.


The Executive Manager added that the issue had been explored in external legal advice.  Under the current Housing legislation, the Council has a statutory duty to provide a reasonable preference to households.


Councillor Dimoglou felt that we should encourage people to buy through shared ownership. 


Councillor Wilkinson said he had experience of housing local people under the criteria set within Section 106 agreement, but also was not able to fill them on the first let.


The Chairman asked the Executive Manager to review the Policy as Members were not in agreement for Parishes to have first let only.


RESOLVED that the Executive Manager for Growth gives consideration to Members’ comments prior to recommending the report to Cabinet.


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