HUNTINGDONSHIRE may be on the verge of a serious spat with the Government over the number of new affordable homes it can insist on being built in the district. Currently, the council can insist that 29 per cent of homes on any sizeable development in th
HUNTINGDONSHIRE may be on the verge of a serious spat with the Government over the number of new "affordable" homes it can insist on being built in the district.
Currently, the council can insist that 29 per cent of homes on any sizeable development in the district - 25 or more homes on a site or residential development of more than a hectare - are affordable. It wants to increase that proportion to 40 per cent, particularly to enable more young people to continue to live in the communities in which they were brought up.
But the new East of England planning blueprint, the "regional spatial strategy", sets the proportion at 35 per cent of the 508,000 new homes for the region by 2021, at least 11,200 of which are earmarked for Huntingdonshire.
HDC's cabinet is concerned that developers could mount a successful court challenge to any planning condition that set the affordable element above 35 per cent.
The district is set to accept significant inward migration, both from Europe and from other parts of the UK, over the next 15 years.
"They are not all managing directors, lawyers and sundry scoundrels," Councillor Nick Guyatt told cabinet colleagues last week. "They are teachers, ambulance drivers and others who create the sort of sustainable communities we need. And they can't currently afford the kind of housing that's being built. They are forced to go into the private rented sector or rely on social housing.
"If we don't build enough low-cost housing, we are not going to get people able to live and work in the same region. We want to be able to attract the people we need to make the community work. We should resist this reduction to 35 per cent."
Cllr Deborah Reynolds claimed that 80 per cent of the district's population did not earn enough to make a start on the "property ladder". "So we need affordable housing."
Cllr Peter Bucknell, who has the planning brief in cabinet, added: "We are a rural community, and we don't want to lose family life."
Councillor Ian Bates, the leader, said he feared Huntingdonshire would come under additional pressure to find space for more homes if neighbouring authorities undershot their targets.
After the meeting, Richard Probyn, HDC's planning policy manager, said the status of the 35 per cent figure was unclear. "It depends how you interpret the figures, and we are trying to get this clarified. If it is an overall target that includes smaller developments, we could still achieve 40 per cent on the larger developments that do qualify. At the moment we just don't know.