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Colchester: Fears over affordable home provision

PUBLISHED: 09:00 11 February 2013 | UPDATED: 09:11 11 February 2013

Councillor Tim Young

Councillor Tim Young

SENIOR politicians in Colchester have hit out at changes in government policy which means far fewer affordable homes will be built in the town.

It comes after an amendment to a major planning application on the former garrison site was submitted to Colchester Borough Council. Developer Taylor Wimpey has requested a drastic reduction in the number of affordable dwellings from 157 to 22.

Both the town’s Lib Dem MP Sir Bob Russell and Labour councillor Tim Young, who is responsible for planning, have criticised the move.

However, they said under new relaxed planning policy guidelines, which have been introduced to boost the housing market, councils are left with little choice but to allow the changes.

Sir Bob said: “I don’t agree with it but we are where we are.

“I’d rather councils built council housing. This government has said there will be some council housing and we’ll soon be having some in Colchester which is a plus.”

He added: “This is not a scenario I welcome, but I know I’d rather have some affordable housing than zero.”

If the council does not approve the amendment, Taylor Wimpey could legitimately submit a new application with no affordable housing offered.

Outline planning permission for the Garrison Urban Village Development in Berechurch Hall Road was granted in June 2003. Later in 2010 formal planning permission was approved for the construction of 438 new homes.

New guidance under the National Planning Policy Framework states that to ensure viability, developments should not be subject to certain obligations such as affordable housing and contributions to infrastructure projects.

In addition to building 22 affordable three-bed rented homes, Taylor Wimpey is also proposing 44 homes be sold under assisted purchase schemes aimed at first time buyers.

Mr Young said: “We need affordable housing. Originally this development met our criteria for 35% affordable homes, then the government moved the goal posts and now the developer is saying it is not viable.

“I’m glad we’re getting some but not anywhere near what I wanted.

“We get the best we can negotiate as a council.”

Taylor Wimpey declined to comment.

The proposals will go before Colchester Borough Council’s planning committee on Thursday.

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