Councillor highlights issues facing first time buyers in Uckfield

Uckfield has lost 200 affordable homes on the Ridgewood Farm estate in Uckfield because developers weren’t required to provide the full 35% of the total number of houses being built there.

Cllr Paul Sparks

Cllr Paul Sparks, who represents Uckfield East on Wealden Council, raised the issue at a meeting of Cabinet yesterday and said he hoped lessons would be learned for the future with developers held to providing the full 35% on other sites.

He said that 1,960 homes have been built in Wealden since 2016 and, of them, only 346 were affordable. 

“That is 17-18% of the total, way below the requirement of 35%.”

Cllr Sparks said that of the 1,000 homes being built at Ridgewood 350 should have been affordable but he now understood it would be 150 at best.

He added: “I really think we should try to ensure a developer meets that 35% requirement – I know that’s not easy and there are issues attached to it.”

The Uckfield councillor spoke as members of Wealden Cabinet considered the council’s housing strategy.

He also raised concern that the cost of renting homes in Uckfield was so high that it was difficult for any renter to save money to buy their own property.

Security

He said it would cost £950 per calendar month to rent a two-bedroom house, £1,300 for a three bedroom house, and £1,800 for a four bedroom house.

Another issue was that renters only had six months security of tenure and it was difficult to set up a family home on this basis.

He asked if it would be possible to reduce reliance on the private rental sector.

Ann Newton, the council’s planning and development portfolio holder, said she didn’t disagree with Cllr Sparks about developers meeting the 35% affordable figure.

Obligations

She said the council did try to persuade any developer to fulfil their obligations but if they were able to prove that doing so was not viable then there was “absolutely nothing we can do about it”.

She said it was written into the Local Plan that any developer unable to meet the 35% requirement – who can prove that – should build the balance in much smaller marketable houses or flats on the development in an attempt to get first time buyers into the housing market. 

But, she added, until legislation changed there was nothing else the council could do.

Costly

The council’s housing and benefits portfolio holder Cllr Ray Cade said Cllr Sparks was right about rents and the report on housing strategy emphasised that the council must try and provide more affordable and social housing from its own stocks, increasing its stock to make it easier for people.

He said living in Wealden was particularly costly and the council would like to see an increase of supply in the private rented sector.

He added the council did have influence, and enforcement powers in some cases, to ensure properties from the private rented sector were of good standard and safe and healthy environments for tenants. A lot of effort was made in that direction and the private sector was not just left to “do its own thing”.

Housing strategy

The council’s housing strategy was approved at the Cabinet meeting.

It includes the following needs and requirements:

  • Build at least 1,231 homes a year
  • Increase supply of smaller private properties
  • Increase the supply of affordable housing
  • Increase supply of properties available for private rent
  • Increase the availability of shared ownership
  • Increase supply of specialist/adaptable/supported housing
  • Explore the provision of specialist supported accommodation for homeless households

Full details of the housing strategy presented in a report to Cabinet can be seen here on the Wealden website.

See also:

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