February 23, 2024

South West News

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Communities asked for help to identify sites for affordable homes

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Cornwall Council is working with towns and parishes across Cornwall to help identify potential sites to deliver more affordable homes.    

“We know that there is a huge shortage of affordable housing for people in Cornwall and we are determined to do everything we can to address that need” said Olly Monk, Cornwall Council portfolio holder for housing and planning. 

“One of the most difficult challenges is finding suitable sites to build the homes on.   We are working proactively with some town and parish councils who have tackled this issue head on, and we are looking for similar dynamic councils to step up and take similar action.  

“We want to work with them to jointly identify potential land in their areas, and then engage with local communities to enable sites to be brought forward for affordable homes.    

“Our affordable housing team covers the whole of the Duchy, with dedicated officers for each parish. They are already working closely with registered providers, our in-house ‘Council housing’ Delivery Team, and other partners to provide affordable housing schemes.  We want to build on this strong foundation to help more towns and parishes develop and deliver their own affordable housing schemes, enabling their residents to remain in their local area.”  

With 213 towns and parishes across Cornwall, the team carried out an initial assessment of the number of people in housing need in each area, the affordable housing delivery in recent years, and the number of affordable homes currently available, to identify parishes with the most urgent housing need.    

The affordable housing team is in contact with the first tranche of parishes to offer support but are also keen to hear from other areas that are interested in finding out more.   

“We are already working with communities including Bude-Stratton, Looe, St Just-in-Penwith, Penzance and Maker-with-Rame” said Sarah Roberts, the Council’s Principal Rural Housing Enabler.  “Some of these discussions are at a very early stage but we have had positive responses and would like to hear from any other town or parish who would like to find out more.”   

While the process will vary according to the needs of each individual parish, the Council is using a step-by-step approach, which includes:  

Providing parish-specific background housing information, general affordable housing information and an assessment of their specific housing needs. This may recommend undertaking an additional, more in-depth, housing needs survey.   

Working with the parish to identify potential land that could be developed, considering constraints, opportunities, and land ownership.   

Giving advice on potential options for managing a scheme, i.e., working with Cornwall Council’s housing service, a registered housing provider, or by setting up a community land trust   

Assisting with developing a scheme, including accessing funding and carrying out public consultation, through to the planning process and delivering the affordable housing.  

“In Autumn 2021, Bude-Stratton Town Council declared a housing emergency because we believe there is a chronic shortage of suitable housing available in our town” explained Mayor Amanda Tame. “This is being amplified by the increase of housing being used as holiday lets and therefore being excluded from the rental market.  

“We have been working in partnership with Cornwall Council to establish the housing situation in the parish, this has been of significant benefit to us, and we have carried out a housing survey together to gain a clear picture for our area.  This on-going relationship will benefit not only our parish but look at how the wider issue of housing in Cornwall can be addressed as well as further afield.”   

Councillor Monk said: “Cornwall Council has already been able to take some steps to address Bude’s urgent housing need, by identifying two sites for 41 homes, in Council ownership, that had development potential. These two schemes at Sandpiper Road and Binhamy Farm now have planning consent, and we are about to go out to tender to find a suitable contractor to build them for us. These homes will come on stream in the next couple of years – all for local households – and will make a really positive contribution. But we need to do more.”   

The Council has also produced an Affordable Housing Enabling Guide which provides details of the step-by-step approach and resources available to support a local area interested in delivering affordable housing.  

Affordable Housing Enabling Toolkit

“While the focus of this exercise is on identifying sites for delivering affordable housing, we are also looking for additional sites to expand our modular, temporary accommodation schemes for people and families that find themselves homeless” added Olly Monk. “Earlier this year we secured planning permission for our first 15 SoloHaus micro homes on Council owned land at Old County Hall in Truro, with the tenants expected to move into their new homes by the end of this year.  

“Planning applications have also been submitted for further SoloHaus schemes in Penryn, Penzance and Newquay.  This is in addition to 10 modular units being built at Cowlins Mill, Pool.  

“Our first modular housing schemes have been designed to provide accommodation for single people, however, we are now out to tender for an additional package of modular temporary accommodation specifically designed for families, and another exercise will get underway shortly for accommodation for couples.”  

Tackling current housing pressures is a top priority for the Council as we work to  

  • Deliver modular homes as a speedy response by providing temporary accommodation, so local people without a home and who need our help can be housed without worrying about being asked to leave at a moment’s notice  
  • Build significantly more council houses for local people to rent or buy    
  • Buy homes from developers to convert to social housing  
  • Support the provision of affordable homes by housing associations for local people to rent or buy        
  • Ensure sites deliver affordable housing through the planning process       
  • Unlock the potential for town centres to be regenerated to provide more housing       
  • Support community-led organisations that want to deliver their own  
  • homes       
  • Offer loans to bring empty homes back into use   
  • Enable communities to stop new builds being snapped up by would be second homeowners.  

Story posted 18 November 2022

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