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Politicians express "ghetto" concerns over Watford Community Housing Trust flats plan
Watford politicians expressed concerns about social housing “ghettos” being created in the town after a housing association applied to create 21 flats, but make none affordable.
Councillors said they were unhappy that Watford Community Housing Trust had asked to be let off the affordable housing quota for its Clarendon Road development on the basis it had built social housing elsewhere in the borough.
The move comes as Watford Borough Council’s own planning guide says all developments of 10 units or more must be at least 35 per cent affordable.
However the plan was passed by the development control committee, after councillors were assured the application was unique as it had been submitted before the borough’s new rules came into force.
The trust applied to convert old office space at 1 Clarendon Road, near High Street, into 19 one bed and two two bed flats.
At a meeting last night Gareth Lewis, the trust’s director of property and new business, addressed the councillors before they debated the application.
He said any money made from the scheme would go to building affordable housing elsewhere in the borough.
He said: “Any surplus which is generated from the scheme will only strengthen the trusts ambitions to deliver 500 new homes.”
George Derbyshire, Liberal Democrat for Park, said he was unhappy with the trust’s argument that it should be allowed to offset its affordable housing allowance against previous developments.
He said: “The reason for not having it all in one particular development is so you do not start to create ghettos.
“The point is you have mixed developments so you have some market rate houses and some affordable homes. So I don’t accept that premise.”
However other councillors praised the scheme. Alan Burtenshaw, a Lib Dem councillor for Woodside, said he was pleased with the scheme as the flats were bigger than if a private developer had done them.
Councillor Mark Watkin, a Lib Dem for Nascot, said he was happy to see empty units in the town centre being brought back into use as homes.
He added: “I am very minded to be positive about this. I don’t think it is large enough to create a ghetto”.
Some councillors raised concerns that allowing the housing trust to build a development without affordable homes would set a precedent for other applications.
Planning officer Paul Baxter said at the time the trust started talking to the council about the Clarendon Road plan it’s new core plan had not come into effect.
He said this meant the Clarendon Road development was not subject to the council’s new rules but that future developers would have to abide by the 35 per cent quota.
In the end the application was passed unanimously.