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Policy reforms to hit future affordable housing provision

The Leader of the District Council has spoken out against central government planning policy reforms that will reduce the number of affordable homes built across the district.

The District Council estimates more than 1,000 affordable homes have been provided for local people in the past 10 years thanks to a legal obligation - known as a 'Section 106 Agreement' - for developers to include an affordable housing element in any proposal.

But on 28 November, the Coalition Government announced a new threshold - generally 10 units or less - under which developers no longer have an obligation to provide an element of affordable housing.

Cllr Lewis Rose OBEDistrict Council Leader Councillor Lewis Rose OBE said:

"Enabling affordable housing for local people remains our number one priority, but in the few days since the government's announcement, three schemes with developers involving Section 106 contributions totalling £255,000 which had been agreed in principle have collapsed. A further £172,000 worth of Section 106 agreements awaiting legal completion have also stalled.

"This is an ill-considered policy change introduced with no transitional provisions and one that singularly fails to take into account the shortage of affordable housing across the UK. The government should be encouraging more of these homes rather than bringing in measures that address a mistaken perception that development in general is somehow being constrained by a burden on small-scale developers.

"The Derbyshire Dales is the second least affordable district across the East Midlands, with a house price to income ratio at just over 11, yet these changes are totally skewed to the benefit of developers and at the expense of much needed affordable housing, especially in the rural communities we represent."

Councillor Rose, who has sanctioned a letter of objection to Minister of State for Housing and Planning Brandon Lewis, went on:

"The Derbyshire Dales is a highly desirable area in which to live and the overall value of a single small development far outweighs the cost of any affordable housing contribution.

"These government reforms fundamentally affect our ability as a District Council to secure financial contributions from developments towards the provision of affordable housing. In recent years we have secured in excess of £1.2 million from sites of less than five units, and this money has then been invested with our partner housing associations and used to provide much needed affordable housing across the Derbyshire Dales in circumstances where they have been unable to totally fund schemes themselves due to reductions in Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) funding.

"In simple terms, without the additional financial support provided by the District Council through Section 106 contributions, many of the 1,000-plus affordable homes built in the Derbyshire Dales during the last 10 years would not exist today."

A full report on the Coalition Government's policy reforms will be discussed by the District Council's Environment Committee next Thursday, 18 December.

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