Developers who try to wriggle out of building social and affordable housing will have to come back to planning committee, thanks to new rules introduced by the Lib Dems running B&NES Council.
Larger housing projects usually come with a quota for the provision of social and/or affordable housing for rent or sale. Some developers try to avoid this by demonstrating that the development as a whole would not be ‘viable’ were they required to build some less expensive units.
Councillor Tim Ball (Twerton), Cabinet member for Housing, Planning and Economic Development, said:
“In recent years we have seen an increasing trend of developers trying to game the system, using so-called ‘viability assessments’ to avoid building the social and affordable housing required by their planning consent.
“We feel that, in these cases, it’s only right that the studies should be examined by the Planning Committee, in public, rather than behind closed doors.
“Likewise, if a developer has received permission for a major project, but then comes back wanting to make significant material changes, the Committee should be able to revisit the application. We intend to publish for public consumption all the details of viability assessments and other changes so that the public can question what is proposed.
“The Planning Committee is the right place for these issues to be decided. This isn’t just about openness and better decision making, this is about making sure we get the right sort of development for our area.
“The Lib Dems are committed to building and enabling more social housing and truly affordable housing for local people. These changes to planning procedures will help hold developers to their promises and deliver the homes that are so desperately needed.”
A spokesperson for the BathNES Lib Dems added:
“Through these changes to planning rules we have achieved two things. First, by holding developers to account in this way, we can ensure that Bath and North East Somerset remains an inclusive, affordable place to live. Somewhere that renters and young, working families looking to get on the property ladder can share in the opportunities offered by new developments across the region.
“Second, by forcing developers to go back through the planning committee, we are making the planning process more transparent, giving local people the opportunity to have a say in the types of housing that are being built in their communities.”
These two outcomes are consistent with two of our major manifesto pledges: to build truly affordable and social housing and opening up the council to make it easier for you to make your voice heard. The Lib Dems are delivering for B&NES.
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