South Oxhey Initiative: developers put off by high affordable housing target (From Watford Observer)
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South Oxhey Initiative: developers put off by high affordable housing target
Updated 11:45am Wednesday 2nd July 2014 in News
Proposals to make almost half of the 450 new homes planned for South Oxhey affordable must not be watered down for developers, politicians for the area have urged.
Three Rivers District Council is looking to submit a planning application for the South Oxhey Initiative in June, despite there not being a developer for the project.
The council hopes that a developer will support the scheme after planning permission has been approved.
However, there is concern among Labour councillors who want the Liberal Democrat administration to stick to its pledge that 45 per cent of the houses will be designated as affordable.
At a meeting of the South Oxhey Initiative Steering Group last night, Labour county councillor Joan King, said she wanted the council to guarantee that 45 per cent of housing will be affordable.
The South Oxhey representative said: "I want an assurance that Three Rivers is not going to back down on affordable housing."
Alan Head, Three Rivers’ head of property and major projects, said that the application will stipulate that 45 per cent of housing will be social and that developers will have to submit a bid based on that condition.
Mr Head added: "We have made it absolutely clear that our planning application will be at 45 per cent affordable housing."
Yet market research conducted by Deloitte Real Estate on the council’s behalf shows that developers would be apprehensive to take on the project as it stands in its current form.
In council documents it was revealed that: "There is significant scepticism from developers that a project of this nature can be viable at the levels of affordable housing that we (the council) propose."
Leader of the district’s Labour group, Stephen Cox, wanted confirmation whether there had been any significant interest from developers on the project in its current format.
Hayling ward representative, Councillor Cox, said: "Given that there has been significant interest from developers, but ultimately there has been some significant scepticism, I’m wondering if there has been any significant interest on the compliant bid on the 45 per cent affordable housing target."
Mr Head said that developers "won’t go beyond" the first stage unless they submit a bid that complies with the council’s application for 45 per cent affordable housing.
Liberal Democrat councillor, Matthew Bedford, said: "We have made it very clear that we want to see that level of affordable housing.
"We have also made it very clear that we want this development to go ahead. If they become incompatible then we will have to see how we deal with that."
The initiative has experienced a number of setbacks after housing associations, Thrives Homes and Catalyst Housing backed out of the project within a year of one another.
The Conservative group withdrew its support for the regeneration project in November when questions arose over the scheme’s viability.
Leader of the district’s Conservative group, Ralph Sangster, said that it will be hard to entice a developer with the scheme as it currently stands because of the high affordable housing quota and that is why the group could no longer support the project.
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