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Fewer cheap homes for South Oxhey as developer pulls out of Three Rivers District Council’s proposal
The redeveloped centre of South Oxhey may include fewer affordable houses and less independent retail space than first thought after Three Rivers District Council’s initial proposal was rejected by all but one developer.
The council had hoped that 45 per cent of the anticipated 520 flats and maisonettes built in four blocks between Oxhey Drive and Fairfield Avenue would be given over to affordable housing.
But members of the South Oxhey Steering Committee were told on Monday that after one of the two developers which showed an interest withdrew, the council has decided to relax this target.
The council says the 98 households due to be moved will be offered homes in South Oxhey, although they could be in houses built on one of three "remote sites" away from the main development which were introduced at Monday’s meeting.
These sites are the former Crescent Club in Hallowes Crescent, the Jet pub in Hayling Road and an area of land on the corner of Ferndown and Maylands Roads - all are some distance from the main redevelopment site.
Alan Head, asset manager at Three Rivers, said: "We have said that (45 per cent social housing) was always subject to viability.
"We are not giving up on that target. The first and absolute base possible is we will provide the current 98 units that are there. There is no negotiability there.
"The rest will be a mix of private, shared ownership and social rented."
He added: "Some of these 98 could be within these remote sites."
Labour deputy leader Councillor Steve Cox, expressed concern that not all residents on the site would be allowed to return if they wished.
He said: "They are not all going to go onto the site, all these people there at the moment aren’t necessarily guaranteed a return."
The progress report handed to members commented: "It is considered that they [remote sites] could be used for early housing development, to alleviate the logistics of having all of the re-provided homes within the central area."
Council Leader Ann Shaw stressed the importance of increasing the amount of social housing available in the district.
She said: "We desperately need social housing, what we have got to find out is the level we are at.
"I was in South Oxhey recently and I was really pleased because people I didn’t know came up to me and said how excited they were about it."
The report also casts doubt on the future of proposed new retail space, saying: "Whilst the envisaged foodstore itself will add value to the scheme, the extent and return from the further retail space, to accommodate any existing retailers and any new entrants is a matter of conjecture.
"The market demand for local and independent retailers, alongside national retailers appropriate to a district centre, is reducing nationally and South Oxhey cannot expect to buck that trend."
The council is also seeking a loan from the government’s Growing Places Fund to "pump prime" the project and get it started, the order of construction will also be changed to reduce early costs of the project.
The council has also yet to strike a deal with Thrive Homes which bought the leasehold for many homes on the estate from the council in 2008.
Thrive’s chief executive Elspeth Mackenzie stepped down from the steering committee in November saying the council’s offer for the homes was "not commercially acceptable" but the council said avoiding "a commercial conflict of interest" was the reason for her departure.
A second invitation to tender was sent out to four unnamed companies on Monday and a due date for proposals has been set for March 11.