Council sticks to guns over need for more affordable housing

AFFORDABLE housing has remained at the top of Yorkshire Coast's planning agenda despite the scrapping of national house-building targets and protests about developers eyeing up green field sites on the edge of towns.

Before the General Election Scarborough Council faced hundreds of objections to its approach to helping people who cannot afford to get on the property ladder.

The bureaucrats found themselves on a collision course with residents over proposals for 1,720 new homes in the village of Scalby.

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Planning documents suggested that three areas of land could be allocated for housing – Northfield Way/Castlemount for 800 homes, Ridge Green for 400 homes and High Mill Farm for 520.

The policies were drafted in response to Labour's requirement for Scarborough to approve 560 dwellings a year up to 2026 and provide a broader mix of housing by looking at green field sites on the edge of town.

Under Labour, house-building responsibilities were heaped on town halls through moves such as the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) which in turn was to guide the new Local Development Frameworks (LDFs) to replace Local Plans. In removing the "dead hand of central Government bureaucracy" from local decision-making, the coalition Government said the intention was to stop green belt land being concreted over to meet targets.

Yesterday it was announced Scarborough Council leaders – in the absence of national guidelines – had voted to approve an interim housing policy which will be the guiding light for development until things are clearer nationally.

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The council said it needed something in place because while the Government wants to restore local power to town halls, Ministers had already created uncertainty about the measures coming in to replace the older Local Plan.

The council approved an Interim Housing Position Paper so it had some principles to work with.

The IHPP reaffirms the case for providing for a better mix of housing across the borough, which includes the Filey and Whitby areas.

"It also recognises the need to increase the supply of affordable housing area, showing evidence of a significant shortfall in supply in comparison to the area's housing waiting list," officials said.

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Pauline Elliott, Scarborough Council's Head of Regeneration and Planning, said: "The removal of the RSS has produced something of a policy vacuum.

"The IHPP seeks to provide a borough-wide position on future housing provision to enable key planning decisions in the short term to be informed by some form of strategic thinking, rather than taken in an ad-hoc manner, potentially on appeal.

"Further delays in the realisation of the LDF would give rise to additional uncertainty and delay both in investment in the area and the bringing forward of important social and economic benefits.

"The planning authority needs to be able to make strategic decisions about providing homes and jobs to benefit the local community."

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Scarborough Council currently have two planning applications, which have come forward during the present muddle.

One is at High Mill Farm which will be determined tomorrow. The other is at West Garth, Cayton, which is still pending.

Scalby Village Trust chairman Caroline Pindar argued the timing of the decision – coming only days before a major planning decision going back to the committee – was wrong.

She understood the pressure the council was under to make decisions but it was also very important that communities were consulted.