Essex County Council slammed over lack of affordable homes in Purford Green

General / Wed 19th Jan 2022 am31 06:36am

JUST six homes out of 35 being developed by Essex County Council in Harlow will be affordable.

The development of land at the former primary school at Purford Green will eventually provide 29 open market homes and six affordable homes – three of which will be affordable rent and three shared ownership homes reports the Local Democracy Reporting Scheme.

The council has said the scheme “strongly supports” the delivery of the council’s plan, ‘Everyone’s Essex’, providing a “high-quality environment, strong, inclusive and sustainable economy, promoting health, wellbeing and independence for all ages”.

The development of Purford Green is proposed to be delivered by the authority’s arms-length housing company, Essex Housing Development LLP.

But Councillor Mike Mackrory, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the county council, said the number of affordable homes was not enough.

He said: “I find the number of affordable units – just six out of the 35 – to be disappointingly low given the demand for the affordable rent and accommodation in Harlow.

“Most progressive authorities go for 35 percent affordable homes.”

Councillor Lesley Wagland, cabinet member for economic renewal, infrastructure and planning said: “I think you need to look at the performance of Essex Housing in the round because there we are talking about 47 per cent affordable.

“In some of the projects the financial viability is a greater challenge but what we are able to do in the round is to produce that sort of affordability.

“We are involved very heavily at Essex County Council on the garden community in Harlow and on the affordability level there we are fighting to make sure the private sector lives up to the sort of affordability we are able to achieve.”

To finance the deal, there will be a development loan provided by the county council to cover any capital costs involved in the development of Purford Green by Essex Housing.

The loan will be repaid to the council through the proceeds of sale of units built on the site.

Cllr Wagland said: “This reusable redundant public sector access its another part of the regeneration of Harlow and it delivers a surplus to reinvest into vital Essex County Council services.”

The plans are currently with Harlow Council planning department for determination.

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9 Comments for Essex County Council slammed over lack of affordable homes in Purford Green:

Joss Noone
2022-01-19 09:35:41

Let's Hope that our Councillor for Bushfair, Dan Swords, sorts this out especially after he famously said that he would chain himself to the bulldozers, dressed as batman to protect these former playing fields. Surely he should e able to bang heads with the 4 Conservative councillors who also sit as County Councillors too. The lessons should also be learned so that this can never happen again in our town. For if Houses Need to be built, then they need to be built for Harlow people and not for profit. I wonder what hand cllr Hardware had in this mess?

Kim Oconnor
2022-01-19 10:26:26

Have you any idea how many people in Harlow waiting for homes, you continue to ignore this situation, because you councils have had a better offer. Do you really think 6 council is enough. Councils keep allowing our lands to be ripped up in abundance for unaffordable homes to most.. not thinking of future generations. 16 council houses in plans, out of thousands of unaffordable housing estates.... please do not call them villages.. THIS IS NOT THINKING OF PEOPLE LIVING HERE. Most of you councilors not not live here, do not know Harlow, or I may add know the needs of Harlow people. This is a greed and profit thing pure and simple SAVE OUR STORT.

Connie Sosa
2022-01-19 11:43:16

Kim O'Connor, anyone buying a property in Harlow is 'living here'. Although Harlow residential land prices are much lower than neighbouring districts, we have very little land available within our borders and an already high population density. The cost to build a 2-3 bed terraced house in Harlow (including land) is around £ 235-245,000. With a monthly council rent of around £ 440 monthly, that means the yield is only 2.36% p.a. In addition, the tenant acquires a Right to Buy at a significant discount to the detriment of the Council (ergo taxpayers). There are a number of other issues: single people living in 3-4 bedroom council houses, families with combined incomes of over £ 50,000 p.a. occupying council houses or on the Council waiting list. These people can afford to buy or rent through the private sector. Council housing is a very expensive service and should be available to those in genuine need, which needs to be clearly defined to exclude those who can afford alternatives. It should not be seen as 'a right'. If we compel house builders to provide too many 'affordable' homes, the projects will not be viable and they will build in areas which are more flexible, so we will have no new homes.

Nicholas Taylor
2022-01-19 15:43:46

I feel that a number of points need to be made in respect of those already appearing on this news item. Firstly, Harlow Council spent thousands of hours and thousands of pounds from our Council tax over a three year period to create what is known as the Local Plan which sets out amongst other things to determine what is needed in the way of new housing in the town and this concluded that 30% of homes that are built need to be affordable. Despite this time and time again developers wriggle out of this when coming forward with plans. Secondly, this land is owned by ECC, therefore the cost to build the homes is much lower than would otherwise be the case, therefore reducing the number of affordable homes just means that as has been said the surplus will be used to fund other council services. The trouble is, once used, the money has gone and ECC has to find another way to raise income in the future. Thirdly, if the homes built were ones which were outside of the Right To Buy, ie for older people with certain services provided, not only could they not be sold, but people living in homes larger than they need could move in and allow families to move into the home they vacated. There are at least 1500 houses in Harlow occupied by just one or two residents. The housing crisis will not be solved by the private sector, history shows that it never has. We need to make better use of the existing resources (homes and land), building tens of thousands of large expensive homes will solve nothing.

Michael Hardware
2022-01-19 18:00:51

Mr Noone, not sure why you have mentioned me, although I did ask questions about this development, even though it is not in my ward or division. Not quite sure why this story is coming forward now: the project was approved by Harlow's planning committee several months ago. From my recollection, the main elements of this were that it is a former school which has been unoccupied for many years, the site is owned by Essex County Council and is being developerd by Essex Homes, which is owned by Essex County Council. These are homes with heat pump heating, so more sustainable than most, and several homes are specialist, designed for people with disabilities. The affordable homes will be offered to people on the Harlow housing list, and the market homes are to pay for the development. Mr Taylor, there have been several developments in Harlow recently which have lower affordable elements: this is due to our house prices being lower which affects viability. It is not a case of developers 'wriggling' out of anything, and we have the viability assessed by our own consultants. The housing crisis can only be solved by building more houses, whether social, affordable, rent or for market sales - there is a shortage in every part of the market.

Kim Oconnor
2022-01-19 19:47:22

Connie sosa. You are allowed your option. Doesn't make it right .

Nicholas Taylor
2022-01-19 20:44:17

Michael Hardware, it is clear from the statement that the surplus will be used to fund other council services. Thus ECC consider these other services to be more important than providing more affordable homes. None of those services may be of any benefit to Harlow residents. What developers should be doing is coming forward with schemes that do allow for the Council's target for affordability which is of course based on housing need set out in Local Plan. On the basis of what you have said, the Council's target for affordable housing will never be met. It is also a fact that sites in Harlow for some 3000 homes in excess of that required by Government have already come forward on 'windfall' sites. I am sure that most Harlow residents will feel that building huge blocks of flats costing hundreds of thousands of pound each does not give anything but a fat profit for developers and that more could be given back in the way of so called 'affordable homes'. After all, only a couple or so years ago Persimmon made over a billion pound profit and paid their COE a salary of £95 million for just one year. The Plans for thousands of homes around Harlow are all about greed and have nothing to do with housing need.

Kim Oconnor
2022-01-20 10:03:59

Well said Nicholas..

2022-01-22 11:18:34

The Council has just announced a £26 m new house building programme. Assuming they are built on Council owned land, that should equate to 150-175 new homes, representing the best council building for decades. There is also a £122 m programme for repairs and regeneration of existing estates. There been nothing like this for many, many years.

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