Developers in Northamptonshire ‘too often plead poverty’ over money for cheap housing, firefighters and libraries

Affordable homes are often the first casualty when house builders say a development is not financially viable, Northamptonshire County Council has said

Affordable homes are often the first casualty when house builders say a development is not financially viable, Northamptonshire County Council has said

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House builders in Northampton too often fail to deliver affordable housing, or cash for libraries and the fire service, after pleading they cannot afford it, a council report says.

About 80,000 houses are set to be built by 2029 in Northamptonshire but the county council has said that, despite Government guidelines the split on normal and lower priced housing is often bargained away by district councils before building begins.

Ben Hunter, a Northamptonshire County Council senior project manager, said it was often as a result of developers saying a scheme will not be viable unless concessions are made on contributions to a local services.

Planners, with housing targets to meet, often give in.

Mr Hunter said: “Developers often argue, especially in areas of lower land values, that they can’t afford the total ask in terms of obligations.

“In most cases it is affordable housing that is reduced. “Local planning authorities have targets of between 30 and 40 per cent for affordable housing, but these are very rarely reached due to the cost implications in order for the other infrastructure to be delivered.”

Mr Hunter went on to say that other cash that the county council asks developers to contribute also often fails to reach local authority coffers.

He said money for services such as fire and rescue and libraries are often “written off as non-essentials by local planning authorities”.

Councillor Danielle Stone, (Lab, Castle), speaking to the children and learning scrutiny committee, said the fact affordable housing in particular was thought expendable was a travesty.

She said: “I think it’s seriously alarming that there’s this squeezing of affordable housing.

“In my ward there are lots of large families living in small units where adults sleep in living rooms and children have nowhere to play.

“Yet the building of houses they can afford are being treated as if they are optional.

“We need to have a real look at that.”

The county council said it works hard to provide as much evidence to the local planning authorities as possible to reduce the likelihood that requested funding will be dismissed.