So, a new planning application has been made by Active Urban for the old SCDC office site at Melton Hill.
Does it differ from the last? Only in that it now wants to offer 15 affordable homes instead of 33!!!
Hard to believe. But they are apparently trying to take advantage of sonething called Vacant Buildings Credit (VBC)- an incentive to encourage development on brownfield sites. The fact that SCDC offices were only vacated to sell for development has apparently slipped their goldfish minds and escaped their elastic consciences.
I cannot say how angry I am that this new application cynically prioritises monetisation of the site above the legacy benefits of providing for local need.
So Active Urban were apparently unable to deliver the required modest number of affordable housing units they were originally obligated to provide? Tough!
The answer cannot be to reduce the number of affordable units by two thirds! It must be to change the intention of the scheme – or change the developer.
At a meeting of Woodbridge Town Council’s Planning Committee I was one of five public speakers raising our concerns. There was no dissent.
As I reiterated, local people desperately need housing – but not the housing that developers want to build. We need starter homes, affordable family homes, homes for the disabled and downsizers. Active Urban want to build prestige homes, second homes, homes that exclude more and more local families. Why accept it?
Remember – Melton Hill wasn’t owned by the district council– it was held in trust for us by our elected and appointed servants. And ‘us’ means each and every one of us, rich and poor alike. The district council and its planning committee should respond to local need – not local greed.
Every week, I see families who’ve lived in Woodbridge for generations and whose children and grandchildren are now excluded from their hometown. Disabled people who must leave their support network. Old people who can’t even afford to downsize in the town they grew up. Our streets are filling with second homes, country bolt holes, investment properties, holiday lets, serving no residential use whatsoever.
We residents need the services of those who have been displaced. Who have to drive in, adding to already-chronic traffic and air quality problems. This development could either add to the problem or provide a solution.
I see from Carter Jonas reapplication the promise of 33 “affordable” (affordable, mark, not social housing) units has melted into 11.
*The full application has generously increased this to 15.
Which, if agreed, will doubtless be as airy and insubstantial in actuality as the promised 33 of the last application.
I say that this entire flawed plan simply isn’t the answer. Local people – who have paid their council tax to fund Melton Hill – have significant unmet needs. Why don’t we start from there?
I have said this many times before: Woodbridge doesn’t need more high end housing.
It absolutely does need housing at social rent (that’s 65% of market rental value) for all those we rely on. Retained firefighters, care workers, shop assistants, young families, the teachers who can’t afford to live near our schools. The working twenty-somethings who can’t afford to leave home. Nurses, police, paramedics…
Over the years right to buy has caused Woodbridge to lose more and more of the key rental stock needed to let these valuable workers live in town.
I asked Woodbridge Town Council planning committee to reject this application – and they unanimously did! Their concerns are the concerns of everyone who lives in and loves our town.
Sadly not a single one of Woodbridge’s three district councillors were at the planning meeting, although two are also Town Councillors. Yet this development is probably the single most important issue to affect the town of Woodbridge since bombs dropped on Castle Street and St Johns Hill a century ago. Electors take note.
I now call on the District Council to re-evaluate its priorities, put the town and residents of Woodbridge first and look strategically at development.
The benefits of developing the Melton Hill site – our site – as a Community Land Trust to provide (impossible to sell via r-t-b) housing at truly affordable rent would be a magnificent legacy for the future and cover the council in glory. I’ve proposed it before. I do so again.
Will the District Council listen?