Agenda item

Amendments to the Breckland Housing Allocations policy (Agenda item 12)

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


Gordon Bambridge, the Executive Member for Growth presented the report which concerned proposed amendments to the Council’s Housing Allocations Policy.


Breckland Council’s current Housing Allocations Policy was last reviewed and adopted by the authority in 2016.  The Policy sets out who was eligible to apply for housing and then set out an approach to the prioritisation of eligible households.


The Council’s current Housing Allocations Policy stated that affordable housing within the Breckland district be ring-fenced for households with a local connection to the District as a whole, and that priority for housing be awarded to local households in the highest housing need.  The only exception to this was for homes developed on ‘exception sites’, whereby homes were developed on small sites in response to the identification of a locally rising need for additional affordable housing.  In this scenario, homes built on exception sites were typically prioritised for households with a connection to the parish where the homes had been built, over and above those who did not have a connection to the parish.


Separately to the processes relating to the housing allocations, a number of local communities across Breckland were developing Neighbourhood Plans.  As Members were aware, the Neighbourhood Planning process had been developed by Government as a means of providing local communities with the opportunity to shape development in their areas.  It was common place for Neighbourhood Plans to include policies on matters relating to design, amenity space and the location of development with settlements.  However, an increasingly common ask by local communities developing Neighbourhood Plans was for a proportion of affordable housing delivered on sites allocated by the District Council (through the Local Plan process) to be prioritised for households with a local connection to that specific development area featured within Neighbourhood Plans related to affordable housing.


The amendment, if adopted, would enable additional preference to be given to applicants with a local connection to the parish, rather than just the District, in relation to sites being allocated over and above those already allocated in the District Council’s Local Plan.


The proposed amendment to the Council’s Housing Allocations Policy had been considered previously by the Overview & Scrutiny Commission at its meeting on 8 November 2018.  Following a detailed discussion, Members requested that Officers returned to a future meeting as a means of providing clarity on a number of points raised by the Committee.  The two key points raised had been as follows:


·        That further consideration be given as to whether the policy amendment should be amended in order to enable the parish local connection requirement to apply to lettings ‘in perpetuity’ – as opposed to simply applying on ‘first let’.

·        Whether it would be possible to apply a parish local connection requirement to all sites in all parishes in the District, regardless of whether a Neighbourhood Plan was in place.


Councillor Bambridge advised that having given further consideration to the Policy, it was now being proposed that the Policy proceed to public consultation on the basis of the Policy applying on ‘first let’ as opposed to ‘in perpetuity’. 


He urged Members to support this amendment.


Councillor Bambridge advised that a future re-appraisal of the whole Policy going forward would take time but this amendment, if approved, would be the first step, as an interim measure and would support anyone who wanted to use the Neighbourhood Planning process.


A detailed, lengthy discussion then ensued and many questions and concerns were raised including:


·        Land ownership

·        Risk of legal challenges to the soundness of the Policy

·        Social Housing that could be sold (this concern was withdrawn)

·        Why amend the Policy for the benefit of one Neighbourhood Plan request

·        Parishes without a Neighbourhood Plan would be disadvantaged unless there were exception sites.


In response to a concern, the Executive Director of Place tried to explain the difference between ‘in perpetuity’ and ‘first let’.  He advised that if the parish local connection requirement to apply to lettings ‘in perpetuity’ – as opposed to simply applying on ‘first let’ this would mean that if there was no demand the property would remain void.  He reminded Members of the several hundred people on the waiting lists and the demand for social housing.


Members were not at all happy with the proposed amendments.


The Chairman felt uncomfortable about going ahead with the amendments and proposed that the consultation be delayed until the report had been discussed by Cabinet at its next meeting on 5 February 2019.  This proposal was seconded by Councillor Matthews.


Councillor Jermy felt that this matter should be added to the O&SC Work Programme and a procedure/process be created so that the Council would end up with an appropriate Housing Allocations Policy for all concerned.


RECOMMEND to Cabinet that consideration be given to the proposed amendments to the Council’s Housing Allocations Policy.

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