Affordable-housing offer scuppers bid for new homes in village

The site of the proposed homes next to Pegswood First School.
The site of the proposed homes next to Pegswood First School.

A bid for a major housing development in Pegswood has been refused, due to the council’s opposition to the affordable housing proposed for the site.

Low-cost developer Gleeson wanted to build 61 two, three and four-bedroom homes on land north-east of Pegswood First School, off Butchers Lane, but the application was unanimously refused at Monday’s (April 8) meeting of the Castle Morpeth Local Area Council.

There were a couple of outstanding matters, but the main bone of contention for Northumberland County Council planners was that the scheme would not deliver the right type of affordable housing.

The authority’s requirement for a site like this would be that 17 per cent of the properties would be affordable in perpetuity, so, of the 61 total, 10 or 11 would be affordable – four or five for rent and the remainder being for affordable home ownership.

Gleeson had proposed that all of the two-bedroom homes (19, or 30 per cent of the total) would be sold at 80 per cent of local market value, only to first-time buyers under 40 and with a restrictive covenant preventing them from being rented.

This concerned planners and was not deemed acceptable as ‘it does not meet the housing mix the council’s evidence requires in a settlement where there is limited opportunity to deliver the affordable rented homes required’.

Speaking at the meeting, Steve Gamble, Gleeson’s land and planning director, highlighted that the company’s offer would result in two-bedroom homes for £112,000, but with a mortgage amount of £82,000 as they will be sold under Right to Buy as well.

He said that 30 per cent of the properties would be ‘for low-cost home ownership at a working mortgage of £60 a week’, adding that it would take young people off the council’s housing waiting list and free up social housing elsewhere.

Couns Richard Dodd and Scott Dickinson both alluded to the fact that the Gleeson offer sounded quite good, with the former saying it seemed like ‘a very small sticking point’, although the latter went on to say that he was pleased there was strong evidence of the need for rental properties.

Rob Murfin, the council’s director of planning, said: “Gleeson plays a really valuable role in market housing in this country. Their properties are affordable to people who can get a mortgage.

“However, that doesn’t address the affordable-housing need in the county.

“The overall site is affordable, but this isn’t a true affordable-housing offer.”

He highlighted one of the paragraphs of the planning officer’s report, which explained that ‘there is no element of perpetuity in this offer and the only people to benefit from any affordable ‘discount’ would be the initial purchasers’.

Coun David Bawn said: “It’s refreshing to hear that we have got a robust response from the planning department.

“I think we all agree it’s a sensible site and if something else is brought forward in future that meets the requirements, I think we would look at it differently.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service