Tag Archives: affordable housing

Could Melton Hill development plans get worse? Yes!

Still undeveloped, still unaffordable?

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.

Yes, ELEVEN.*

*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?

Housing Day : what Suffolk needs

Today is #HousingDay.

Do you know people desperate for to find or afford somewhere to live?   In this county – with new built estates rising everywhere – I know plenty.

The answer? Simple. We need to stop pandaring to the free market -which is creating ever more homes and second homes for the affluent – and start planning and building the housing that everyday people need.

Purpose-built council housing. For those starting out,  for young families, the disabled, the low waged (public sector workers for example) , those that need to downsize.

Abolish that strangest of all supposed human rights  – the ‘right to buy.’ Replace it with “the right to have a truly affordable roof over your head.” (And don’t let those weasel words ‘affordable housing‘ con you. It means 80% of market rates. In an area where houses cost £1m to buy, thousands per month to rent ‘affordable housing’ is, what? We need social housing because that alone is truly affordable).

And we must stop mouthing all this ‘let the market decide’ malarkey. The market consists of builders who – given the choice – want to build high end executive homes because they make the best profit. What do we need? Homes for the young, the young families, the disabled, the low waged, the elderly. Homes for everyone who makes up our society – or we lose it.

Not necessarily homes to own. One of the reasons ‘social housing’ sometimes gets such a bad press is that there is now so little of it keft that it may be more likely to be let to people with the most significant problems or needs – and thus give it an unfair reputation.

Yet why shouldn’t many more people live this way? It happens elsewhere without difficulty. It used to be the way of life here.

Home ownership was an anomaly of the second half of the twentieth century

When I was young, lots of low-waged people were able to live in the centre of towns and cities. In solid Victorian terraced council houses now sold off under right to buy, worth a million or so, and maybe not even lived in full time by those that now own them. Even at rental income, way outside the pockets of your average working family.

And the people who our towns and cities need and rely on (teachers, nurses, carers, firefighters, young workers etc) sofa-surf, commute incredible distances or plain give up.

An end to laissez faire, say I. Let’s constrain the free market and go back to the politics of common sense – and have a solid practical unflashy homes policy built on the needs of the people rather than what companies and organizations want to build!

Proposed Gladman development on Woodbridge fringe

I have written with the significant concerns I have regarding the outline planning application proposed for the land east of Bridge Farm, Top Street, Martlesham –  the impact of which would fall within the Woodbridge division.

While we all  recognise the desperate  need for affordable housing in oue area, I would be very concerned if permission for this particular development were to go ahead  (particularly as the proposed development of 2000 houses at Martlesham  Adastral Park still remains under consideration).

Apart from the fact that this is the last piece of greenfield separating Woodbridge from Martlesham  – a fact which holds great significance for both communities – my principal concerns deal with  transport:

  • The application proposes vehicular access.  Proposed access  for residents’ cars is onto
    i) a narrow uphill section of Top Street  just after a railway bridge and
    ii) a wider, but heavily used and equally uphill section of B1438 (here called Ipswich Road ) which is heavily used, being  the main access road through Woodbridge.
    Neither seem to be adequate or appropriate exits onto the roads in question. There appear to be no other viable options.
  • Sandy Lane Gladman plan detailThe  ‘proposed  public open space footpath route’  as labelled on the Gladman  plan (see left – click to enlarge: an open corridor that leads from Sandy Lane, at a place that has no pavement towards Woodbridge  or  ongoing footpath without a risky walk around a blind bend under the railway bridge, to a part of Top Street which has no pavement or ongoing footpath) is misleading. It is in fact the corridor through which the EA One underground high tension cabling is due to be routed. And on which restrictive covenants will remain in place afterwards preventing building and planting (further details here  )  This is therefore not a ‘proposed  public open space footpath route’ but a guaranteed  space along which it is not possible to build or plant, which leads to nowhere substantive – and for which any developer needs to find an explanation.
  • I do not know what the planning guidance is on EMFs (Electro magnetic fields) and health when planning a new development – particularly one housing young families, and most particularly when there is a proposed children’s play area right next to buried high voltage lines?  The location causes me considerable disquiet.
  • Planning development with affordable housing will help house  young families who cannot afford local prices. Sadly this development would not encourage children to walk to school or socialise  in Woodbridge,  or indeed encourage any residents to walk to Woodbridge, or young parents with buggies to walk anywhere  as the ‘footpath’ debouches onto two pieces of road without footways.  If the primary catchment is Kyson (as Kyson’s catchment map suggests) there will be no safe means to walk to the school, unless a crossing is built across the Ipswich Road. Apart from expense, this which would cause congestion and possible  accidents in rush hour as the B1438 is the principal exit route for Woodbridge commuters.
    However, without a crossing, the County Council will potentially face a large and ongoing bill for education transport on ‘safety of the route’ grounds.
    The other great need for affordable housing is amongst the  older downsizers. These may often have the same requirements for pedestrian access as young families. And again these are not met.

In short, if a housing development – and specifically one with a significant affordable element – is proposed, it needs to be placed where  it is safe and convenient for people to live and where they find safe and convenient ways to get to work, to education and to socialise. The location of this proposed development does not  provide for this