||Councillor H Sawrey-Cookson
||Councillor M Slee
Ms P Goodwin
Mrs S Orchard
Mrs J raine
Mrs D Spence
||Councillor H Threlkeld
|Lead Officer in Attendance:
||Sam Bagshaw (Scrutiny Officer)
|Democratic Services Officer:
Hp/17/10/11 Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors P Richardson and Ms D Stobbart.
Minutes Hp/8/8/11 to Hp/16/8/11 of the meeting of this Panel held on 25 August 2011 were approved as a correct record of those proceedings.
Hp/19/10/11 Declarations of Interest
No declarations of interest were received.
Hp/20/10/11 Scrutiny Co-ordinating Board - Update
The Chairman of the Panel explained that the Housing Development Plan Document review group awaited the production of documents before it would be able to commence. This was not likely to happen before December 2011.
Hp/21/10/11 Forward Plan - Key Decisions
The Panel considered the Forward Plan list of Key Decisions for the period November 2011 - February 2012. The Forward Plan provides details of Key Decisions that are to be taken over the following four months by the Executive. The Plan provides the opportunity for people inside and outside the Council to see when the Key Decisions are going to be taken, who will be taking the decisions and what information and consultation will contribute to the decisions. The Cumbria Housing Strategy had been circulated to all Members. The Strategy would be presented to the full Council at its meeting on 1 December 2011.
RESOLVED thatthe Forward Plan be noted.
Hp/22/10/11 Co-ordinated Work Plan
The Panel considered the Scrutiny Co-ordinated Work Plan which set out the work currently assigned to the Scrutiny Panels.
RESOLVED that the Work Plan be noted.
Hp/23/10/11 Carlisle and Eden Community Safety Partnership Joint Scrutiny
The Panel received the Minutes of the meeting of the Carlisle and Eden Community Safety Partnership Joint Scrutiny Panel held on 4 August 2011. It was suggested that the Panel may wish to separate the categories of 'Drugs' and 'Alcohol' in that the issues surrounding the mis-use of illegal drugs as against alcohol were different and required distinct strategies for their resolution.
RESOLVED that the Chairman of the Community Safety Panel, Councillor J Thompson, be requested to raise the suggested separation of 'drugs' and 'alcohol' in relation to the Panel's work at its next meeting.
Hp/24/10/11 Order of Agenda Items
RESOLVED that items 9 and 10 on the agenda be considered in advance of the Housing Debate, at item 8 on the agenda.
Hp/25/10/11 Urgent Items
The Chairman advised that there were no items of urgent business to be considered at this meeting.
Hp/26/10/11 Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Housing and Community Panel will be held on 15 December 2011. That meeting would consider the outcomes of the Housing debate to be held later in the agenda and prepare recommendations to the Executive as appropriate.
The meeting adjourned at 6.25pm
The meeting re-convened at 6.45pm
Councillor D Stobbart joined the meeting
Hp/27/10/11 Housing Questions
Councillor Sawrey-Cookson explained that, as one of the Council's main Corporate Objectives, the subject of Housing provision within the District was an important one to be discussed and consulted upon. He introduced the members of the Panel to those attending:
|Councillor Mrs L Grisedale
||Portfolio Holder for Housing
|Mrs J Monk
||Head of Environmental Services
|Mr J Hewitson
||Affordable Housing Officer
|Mrs Anne Rogers
||Principal Housing Officer
|Mr G Clark
||Head of Planning Services
|Mr C Austin-Fell
||Environmental Sustainability Officer
|Councillor J M Smith
||Portfolio Holder for Planning and Economy
As Portfolio Holder for Housing, Councillor Mrs Grisedale described the Housing issues affecting the District and explained the approach being taken to resolve those and associated problems.
Although the Council had transferred its housing stock to Eden Housing Association it retained responsibility for housing in the District. Its aim was to provide a balanced housing market in Eden in which everyone could access housing which was warm, met the decent homes standard and was affordable.
As one of the top corporate priorities, the Council had been working on a set of policies and strategies to help deliver housing and provide support to residents. Funding had been committed for assistance for affordable housing, with repairs for vulnerable households, disabled facilities funding and supported housing schemes amounting to over a million pounds in the year.
Improvements had been made to the way allocations for social housing worked, so that those in the greatest need were accommodated and opportunities were afforded to low income working families. Work with private sector landlords aimed to improve the condition of rented accommodation in the District and raise standards above the statutory minimum by introducing an accreditation scheme.
In partnership with local housing associations and developers the target of 50 new affordable houses this year had been exceeded with 131 properties now on site with over £3m of Government investment.
It was important, in setting the right policies for Eden, to respond to the likely large increase in an older population requiring specially adapted housing with support.
Mrs J Monk explained that the small housing team at Eden relied upon partnership working to achieve its targets and was seeking local information direct from communities to shape provision for current and future need. Work to complete a stock condition survey would inform measures to improve standards.
Mr G Clark described the Council's Planning policy framework in its response to the Affordable Housing priority. The Council had set a target of achieving 30% affordable housing and had achieved substantial success, in collaboration with developers, despite the difficulties.
The Chairman noted that an average sale cost of £220,000 could not be described as 'affordable' within the District's low wage economy. Prices were being forced higher due to the pressures of second home ownership, holiday accommodation, 'buy-to-lets' and retired people migrating into the area. Councillor H Harrison described the difficulties experienced in the village of Dacre and similar rural communities in which local people were being 'priced out' of the buying and renting markets by people coming into the area from economically stronger places.
The Panel was asked how 'affordability' was defined and the criteria the Council used to assess levels of 'affordability.
Mr J Hewitson explained the variety of factors that affected the affordability of homes in relation to, for example, whether the tenants are single, or a couple, an elderly person or a family. A typical first time buyer, with an assumed income of £27,000 and a deposit of £10,000 could 'afford' a home costing £90,000 or less under the government's criteria. It was acknowledged that, in reality, the only properties which might be affordable under this criteria would be shared ownership properties. It was noted that, in relation to affordable rents, a family living in Eden would have to spend 38% (rather than the maximum recommended 30%) of their income on housing provision.
It was noted that, in Eden, the majority of housing stock had been sold under the Right to Buy scheme which had experienced a larger take-up than in most areas, leaving a void in the provision of rental accommodation. Measures such as providing homes for sale at a reduced percentage of the market value and enabling shared ownership/equity schemes were ways in which the community as a whole could achieve best value. The Council sought to be flexible in achieving new build in that some developers of small sites were offered the option of paying 3% of the development value into the Council's funds where the 30% affordable would not be viable for the developer.
Concern was expressed that rents in some of the rural communities were pushed higher than in most areas within the county, this was particularly the case in villages within the National Park.
It was suggested that the Council could explore the possible purchase of land with the funds raised by the 3% levy in order to subsidise the provision of building land for affordable housing developments in the future.
The Housing Development Plan Document would require the allocation of 6 years worth of Housing Development land against targets, which would have a significant chance of completion. There would be a concentration of sites to be identified within the main service centres, however, the need within rural settlements would be considered through a robust suitability examination.
The 30% affordability target would be maintained and only reduced in the light of significant evidence of abnormal costs e.g. de-contamination of site. It was pointed out that although there was flexibility to approve developments that delivered less than the 30% target, there were several examples of developments that had delivered more than 30% up to 100% affordable accommodation. It was noted that in some areas of the District where sale prices were so low in relation to build costs, the 3% levy made some developments unviable. This was acknowledged as a possible reason for flexibility within the current scheme.
It was noted that the government intended to review publicly owned land in order to identify possible sites for release for housing development e.g. Government department land. It was suggested that land costs could amount to up to 30% of the costs of building within parts of Eden.
It was suggested that the provision of 'bed-sits' might be a good way for young people to be able to afford a first home and for single elderly people. However, it was explained that Housing Associations do build single bed properties but find they are less popular than two bed units and are a similar cost to complete than a bed-sit would be. It was suggested that it would be a more effective strategy to free-up affordable accommodation if people were encouraged to move on once they were able to take a step up the ladder.
Core Strategy / Planning Policies
Concern was expressed that in concentrating efforts on achieving affordable housing, the Council risked compromising the character of the area. It was noted that the forecast need for housing in Eden exceeded the population growth by reason of the extended life expectancy of residents, the increase in the need for additional housing owing to divorce and the separation of families, in-migration and the use of property as second homes. The Core Strategy had to accommodate a wide variety of housing need. There was a balance to be struck between achieving planning for growth in a sustainable manner and retaining the design standards to reflect the unique nature of the District and draw out the character of settlements through community engagement. The 4,300 units identified by the Core Strategy would be divided between the main service centres of Penrith (60%), Alston (4%), Appleby (9%) and Kirkby Stephen (7%) with 20% to be allocated to other settlements.
It was noted that the Council had lobbied to achieve higher housing targets in order to ensure the maximum benefit of combining economic development opportunities (such as proposals for the extension of Eden Business Park) with associated housing need within the District. It was felt that Eden had not experienced the levels of sustainable development achieved in neighbouring areas such as Carlisle and Kendal in the past decade.
The location and design of new developments would continue to be subject to Development Control and the Council would apply legal agreements such as S.106 agreements to ensure compliance with conditions.
It was noted that some flexibility was available under the Council's exceptions policy to enable development in rural areas under certain circumstances. The Council sought to enable affordable self-build projects in smaller settlements. The Council would look to Neighbourhood Plans to bring fresh ideas for affordable housing. There would continue to be differences in policy within the National Parks, but planning authorities had a duty to co-operate with their key partners in priority matters.
New Homes Bonus
The Council would be awarded a cumulative cash bonus for the delivery of new homes within the District. Although the Council Members had not yet made a decision about how the New Homes Bonus might be allocated and how the need for community consultation would be met, it was suggested the funding may be used to support future community land trusts following the example of Crosby Ravensworth. The Council supported Cumbria Rural Housing Trust which, in turn, assisted community land trusts to work within communities to bring forward land that may not otherwise become available and to ensure the location of developments fitted the locality's needs. The Council may consider providing start-up funding to bridge the gap to when other grant funding may become available at the completion of a project.
The Council would need to be careful, in deciding how the New Homes Bonus would be spent in balancing the needs of residents throughout the District.
It was suggested that the Council could examine the possibility of providing bridging loans for self-build projects.
Extension of Right to Buy
It was understood that legislation would not increase the numbers of people able to take up the Right to Buy their homes. The number of tenancies retaining preserved rights was diminishing and new rights would only apply to Council owned properties rather than those held by Housing Associations.
Extension to National Parks - South Eden
Tebay representatives expressed concern at the intention of Natural England to pursue plans to extend the National Park areas in the south of the District. This would mean the Parish of Tebay becoming split between three planning authorities. There was concern expressed that housing costs would rise in the area and affordability would decrease.
It was noted that Eden District Council, Cumbria County Council and North Yorkshire County Council had all objected formally to the proposals and were unlikely to change their position. It was suggested that those who wished to resist the proposals would be given the opportunity to make representations to the Inspector when the Public Enquiry would be held.
Several present expressed the view that accommodation that was intended for 'local occupancy' appeared to be let to people not considered to satisfy that description as understood by communities. It was suggested that Eden should introduce a Local Lettings Policy to strengthen and clarify the 'local' criteria that would be applied to Choice Based Lettings.
Mrs A Rogers explained that the local connection criteria may take into account employment needs, the location of, for example, schools for children within the family who are already settled within the community. The policy was under review examining who currently accesses 'local' housing and why people traditionally regarded as 'local' are not applying for those properties.
It was suggested that the use of less expensive building materials could be considered in some areas of the District in order to facilitate the construction of affordable accommodation. It was also suggested that Park Homes might be acceptable in some parts to provide some affordable homes.
The Chairman introduced a self-build developer from Temple Sowerby who described the process he had gone through to achieve an affordable home.
The Chairman thanked everyone for attending.
The meeting closed at 8.45pm