“We need affordable housing and we need it now” – that is the message from town hall leaders as they pledged to get tougher on developers building on brownfield sites.
As part of a wider strategy to ensure local people are not priced out of the town, Worthing Borough Council has taken a stand against government planning guidelines.
In recent years the Government has been keen to encourage house building, particularly for small sites. Part of this approach has been to provide an incentive for brownfield development on sites containing vacant buildings.
This means when a plot with vacant units is brought back into use, the developer is offered a financial credit equivalent to the size of the existing building. The credit can then offset any demands from the local planning authority for affordable housing housing contributions – meaning developers may take more profit out of the site.
But Worthing planners said the acute nature of the town’s housing problem and the high reliance on brownfield sites meant that adhering to this guidance would reduce the ability for the town to meet affordable housing demand.
For these reasons, planners recommended that Vacant Building Credit will not be applied to brownfield developments in the borough. The council will also continue to seek development contributions towards affordable housing from developments of six to ten dwellings.
With prices and demand on the rise and space at a premium, Worthing leaders have now agreed these recommendations – meaning more money from developers to provide more housing for those in need.
After consultation with stakeholders, Councillor Kevin Jenkins, Worthing Borough Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration, approved the measure this week (February 7, 2018).
Cllr Jenkins said: “As a council we are committed to regenerating the town as with growth comes jobs, homes and prosperity. While we have a track record of working successfully with developers, we refuse to give them carte blanche and allow them to put profits before people.
“We cannot ignore the fact that hundreds of families in the town are already struggling to get on the housing market, whether that’s buying or renting. We have a duty to do what we can to ensure suitable accommodation is created for all and that is why we have taken this bold move.
“Put simply enough is enough. We need affordable housing and we need it now which is why we have taken this step.”
In making the decision Cllr Jenkins referenced the Centre for Cities study published in January 2017. This showed that the town had the eighth highest affordability ratio for housing in the country, with the average house price nearly 11 times that of the average annual wage.
Further figures show the net income required per year to rent a two bedroom property is more than £30,000.
This has contributed to nearly 1,300 people being on the Worthing Housing Register – a figure which is likely to increase in the future.