It’s been interesting to see what Wainhomes has been up over the last few months. Cornwall Council has received five planning applications from this company in three months, all seeking to revise the housing allocations in plans that have already received approval. In doing this, they’re taking advantage of changing Government policy. The Tories’ Housing Bill is set to reduce genuinely affordable housing in the shape of social rented housing and force everyone to buy property instead. Wainhomes has been quick to sign up in advance to this new Tory attack on social housing.
They were given the opportunity when the Government’s enforcer sent to intimidate Cornwall Council supported the Council’s intention to recognise differing levels of ‘economic viability’ when aiming at an ‘affordable’ housing target. This results in zones where the ‘affordable’ housing requirement varies. Basically, the effect is to reduce the target proportion of ‘affordable’ housing in many parts of Cornwall, particularly it seems those districts where the need is greatest.
So Wainhomes has leapt on this loophole to get its plans retrospectively altered. In each the percentage of ‘affordable’ houses is reduced considerably. And what’s more, the proportion of social rented housing, the only genuine type of ‘affordable’ housing on offer now that the Government is redefining ‘affordable’ to mean unaffordable, has sharply fallen. The following table provides the original housing breakdown in the plans already approved together with the new proportions now being proposed by Wainhomes.
Wainhomes applications to revise housing types
|market housing||revised market||social rented||revised social rented||intermediate housing||revised intermediate|
Across the four plans where social rented housing can be distinguished from intermediate housing the number of social rented houses being planned has plummeted from 103 to 35. Meanwhile, the number of open market houses has risen from 224 to 249.
At Porthpean Road, St Austell, Cornwall Council originally refused Wainhomes’ Phase 2, but this was overturned by a Government planning inspector on appeal. He found that one ‘benefit’ weighing ‘substantially’ in favour of the application was its contribution to ‘meeting the needs of those who are unable to access the local housing market’. He continued: ‘failure to release this site for housing’ would ‘delay the provision of much needed housing, including affordable dwellings which are urgently required to alleviate the housing needs of the local community’.
Wainhomes is now asking the Council to reduce the numbers of ‘affordable’ houses at Porthpean Road from 40% to 26%. Meet the needs of the local community? Who’s having a laugh at whose expense here? Is it the planning inspector at our expense, Wainhomes at the Council’s expense, or those who can afford the open market houses at the expense of those whose access to genuinely affordable housing is disappearing fast?
No doubt these revisions will be accepted. Not surprisingly, the Wainhomes applications have an air of triumphalism about them. So much so that they don’t even bother to check the spelling in their documents. For instance, Duloe Road at Dobwalls is written Dunloe Road. Who cares? What Wainhomes dismisses as a ‘substandard field’ could be anywhere. And soon will be.