Less than half of Waverley’s affordable housing built 

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Cranleigh Civic Society has raised concerns as potential loopholes in planning guidelines mean developers aren’t complying with targets

Only 184 affordable homes have been built out of the 482 developers were obliged to build

Nearly half of the affordable homes which received planning permission in Waverley since 2010 have not yet been built.

In the last five years, developers through various projects in the borough had an obligation to build 482 affordable homes.

However, only 184 of these have so far been completed – there are 84 affordable homes that are under construction, leaving 214, or 44%, which have not yet started.

Proposals with 15 or more homes are required to provide affordable housing, as an incentive to provide for people unable to afford to rent or to buy on the open market.

Fears have been raised by Cranleigh Civic Society after potential loopholes within national planning policy mean developers across the country are failing to comply with affordable housing targets.

A spokesman for the society said: “The figures don’t surprise us at all. Increasingly developers are managing to avoid building much needed affordable housing.

“We have experienced this here in Cranleigh.”

Cranleigh accounts for 30% of proposals in Waverley which have not had their affordable homes promises fulfilled, with 65 of the homes from applications in Amlets Lane and Bramley not yet started. In Haslemere, 53 affordable homes have yet to be built, and in Farnham, there are 96 unbuilt. There is no guarantee that the affordable homes will be built.

Waverley Borough Council’s policy, as part of the 2002 local plan, requires 30% affordable housing on development sites which propose 15 or more homes. This drops to 25% in cases where the density of the development is 40 units per hectare or more.

A new local plan is being drawn up and this policy will be revised.

A council spokesman said: “It is essential that developers provide the percentage of affordable housing approved as part of each planning consent. Where a planning consent includes the provision of affordable housing, it is a legal requirement for the developer to provide it.

“If developers fail to provide the affordable homes required by the planning consent, the council can take legal action against them. However, developers generally comply.”

However, three applications of 15 or more houses which were approved since 2010 did not have the statutory amount of affordable homes.

Two of those were in Godalming , including a development of 137 homes, and another application of 31 retirement apartments. The third was the redevelopment of Elmbridge Village Centre.

Developers should provide affordable homes as part of set planning obligations, which can be renegotiated at any point where the local planning authority and developer wish to do so.

Where completion of a development is claimed to be compromised by the scale of planning obligations, a viability assessment may be necessary. To ensure viability, the costs of any requirements, such as providing affordable housing, should provide ‘competitive returns’.

“The council will always seek for developers to provide affordable housing on residential schemes where planning policy allows,” said the council spokesman.

“There are no examples of where developers have failed to provide affordable housing when required by a legal agreement. In some instances it may be more appropriate to seek a commuted sum payment instead, meaning the developer provides a financial contribution to deliver affordable housing elsewhere in the borough.”

In the case of the two retirement homes applications, a commuted sum for the provision of off-site affordable housing was paid.

In the case of the 137 houses in Godalming, the developer said it was ‘unviable’ to deliver affordable housing as part of the scheme and as a result it was agreed that a one-off contribution of £200,000 be paid towards off-site affordable housing, together with an overage clause.

An overage clause allows the council to review development profit and to receive a proportion of any additional profit made by the developer once homes have been sold, should the final resale value exceed the threshold value of £45.3m.