Housebuilding company is ‘competing in an already overcrowded market’ - councillor
- Credit: Gregg Brown
A development company owned by local authorities has been accused of “seeking to undermine” the efforts of housing associations, a councillor has said.
Councillor David Nettleton is concerned Barley Homes could be damaging to social housing providers by developing affordable homes, but St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which owns a stake in the company, has disputed this, saying they would not be in competition.
Suffolk County Council is set to pull out of its share in the firm - which it helped to co-found three years ago - meaning it would be owned 50/50 by St Edmundbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council.
Barley Homes is yet to build any homes or secure any planning permissions.
Mr Nettleton, who is Suffolk county councillor for the Tower division and a St Edmundsbury borough councillors for Risbygate, said: “In 2002, the borough sold its housing stock to the newly-formed Havebury Housing Partnership.
“It was a controversial decision at the time, but the right one.
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“Having campaigned in the Risbygate Ward since January 1999 – and an elected member of the borough council since 2003 – I am aware of the improvements Havebury has delivered for the benefit of their tenants, who are also my electors.
“We should be supporting Havebury and all the other social housing providers, not seeking to undermine their efforts by competing in an already overcrowded market.”
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A spokesman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said Barley Homes planned to achieve 30% affordable homes in its developments, but it would be looking for registered providers to own and run them.
The aim of the company is to use public-owned land to meet local demand that the commercial sector would be unlikely to have developed. A spokesman said it also means the income from development, including much-needed affordable homes, would stay in the hands of taxpayers to support services instead of going to developers.
The sites Barley Homes plans to develop are Westfield School Site, Haverhill, Castle Hill School Site, Haverhill, and Haverhill Town Hall car park.
Councillor Sara Mildmay-White, cabinet member for housing at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “Barley Homes is the right thing to do to make sure we have the right homes and that public owned land is used in the right way to benefit our communities the most.
“We know that many of the homes, including the affordable ones, our communities need are unlikely to be delivered commercially and that the profit would go into the pockets of developers rather than supporting services our communities rely on.
“Barley Homes provides an income stream to the councils at a time when there is no central government funding.”