Last week we had a Windsor Area Development Meeting where the Medina Dairy’s Shirley Avenue site came up for consideration for 87 dwellings and was given the go ahead with no allowance for affordable homes.
I just wanted to try and explain in lay persons terms why that happened as I totally understand people getting irate because it may appear, to some, that the council are not doing their best by the residents.
I promise you, as Cllr David Cannon who chairs the meeting will testify, I am the first to stand up and say how wrong “I feel” something is. But feelings don’t cut it…
The problem / solution is the law. RBWM has to justify any decisions based on RBWM planning policy and so in many ways our hands are tied. Which is great when it works in our favour but very annoying when it doesn’t.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) lays the foundations for the country.
And then local Borough and Neighbourhood plans sit alongside this to say what is permissible, or not, locally.
Both the Windsor Neighbourhood Plan and the Borough Local Plan (BLP) are with the relevant inspectors and once they have been agreed they will take precedence over the old plans.
The current adopted local plan says that 30% of any development of 15 units or more should be affordable, the NPPF says just 10% need be, but that can only be enforced by RBWM if we have met our commitment for the “supply of homes”.
When the new Borough Local Plan comes into effect, probably in the summer, it outlines plans for 16,000 homes and so takes us beyond our commitment and therefore gives us more power to control what happens when developers approach the RBWM about building homes.
When a planning application comes back then the focus is on the applicant demonstrating how they have addressed the reasons for refusal last time around.
See 5.9 Refused on the 23rd June 2017, and dismissed on planning appeal on the 6th December 2018 on the grounds of the loss of the community facility, and the impact on trees.
So Medina Dairy’s had to provide a community facility and the inspector’s viability assessment relating to affordable housing (2.1, 2.2) said they did not need to make any firm commitment to build affordable homes, essentially because they had provided a community space. There would be a late stage review mechanism using S106 to balance things up as agreed with both parties.
This added to the fact that we haven’t got the BLP in place means that legally, if taken to appeal right now for affordable housing, the RBWM would lose and have to pay legal costs.
So we essentially have to take it on the chin, which is fair enough when you understand the bigger picture, or waste significant amounts of residents money.
Roll on the summer and the anticipated adoption of the BLP, when we can start “insisting” that builders provide 30% affordable homes.
Then we can argue what that actually means!
I hope that helps.