Councillor Nancy Platts used her opportunity to ask oral questions of the Council Leader at Full Council to get some answers about the potential for more affordable housing on the Brighton Gasworks site. Unfortunately the questions were delegated to Cllr Martin Osborne who was unable to fully answer them. Nancy was promised a written reply which finally arrived a month later on 26th April and is detailed below.
As you can see Nancy raised concerns about the number of affordable homes to be provided, where the properties will be marketed and to what extent, if any, the site will provide any benefit to local people. It is clear from the reply given, that the Conservative Government’s National Planning Policy Framework will continue to frustrate the will of local Councillors to provide the level of affordable housing needed for the people living in our City.
*A RESPONSE FROM THE LEADER OF THE COUNCIL TO COUNCILLOR PLATTS’ QUESTIONS ABOUT THE GASWORKS DEVELOPMENT*
Thank you for the email. In terms of both of your questions below.
Developers of the Brighton Gasworks Site are proposing to build 600 – 700 homes and state this development will contribute to the local housing need of 13,200 homes. However so far, they have been unable, or unwilling, to say how many of these will be affordable. What will the leader of the council do to ensure that any future development of the Brighton Gasworks Site includes 40% affordable housing that is genuinely affordable to local people?
As you know there are restrictive national rules on planning when it comes to securing affordable housing in new private development. Although we set a target locally in the City Plan (40 per cent affordable housing should be provided on major sites) this has to be a target, rather than a requirement, in line with the failed National Planning Policy Framework. If the applicant can prove that the development isn’t viable or deliverable at that level, then the local planning authority is required to take account of the case they make. As part of this, the applicant is required to submit a development viability assessment which is then published and assessed by an independent viability assessor on behalf of the local planning authority.
As the site needs remediation, because of the contamination, this is expected to have an impact on the viability of the scheme and the level of affordable housing that can be provided. You can be assured, however, that the town planners will rigorously check the evidence submitted and aim to negotiate the highest amount of affordable housing on the site they can. The final decision on the application will then be made by members of the Planning Committee.
Local residents are very concerned that current plans show the Gasworks Site will be over developed and marketed to line the pockets of overseas investors and property speculators who will leave properties empty for much of the year creating a monolithic and soulless environment. How does the Leader of the Council think the proposed development will benefit the local community?
As Leader of the City Council of course I would like to see all new development in the city benefiting local communities and the city. I’m afraid, however, that the planning system and national policy doesn’t allow us to do that. Planning is a quasi-judicial process. Though we have our adopted City Plan that sets out the type and quality of development expected in the city – this is constrained within the framework of national policy.
Once again, I can assure you that officers will be looking carefully at this application and seeking to ensure that it is acceptable in terms of design, the level of development and the impact on local residents. In terms of meeting local housing needs, though the Government’s key national measure of success is the number of housing units delivered, officers will be pushing hard to deliver as much affordable housing on the site as possible and business space to meet local employment needs.
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty
Leader of the Council
Green Party Councillor for Brunswick and Adelaide, Brighton and Hove City Council