Whitby housing crisis: Council raises doubts about proposed ban on ‘major private housing projects’
North Yorkshire Council has said that it does “not have the power to insist that private house builders only develop affordable homes” on sites not owned by the authority, as Whitby Town councillors have proposed a motion calling for “major private housing developments” to be halted.
The motion, proposed by Coun Michael Harrison and seconded by Coun Asa Jones, is hoping to “effectively combat the popular seaside town’s housing crisis” over the next ten years.
The councillors’ motion proposes that “North Yorkshire Council actively use its planning and economic development powers to prioritise social, cooperative, and council housing developments, instead of major private building projects”.
However, North Yorkshire Council’s assistant director for housing, Andrew Rowe, defended the track record of local authorities and said that more than 294 new affordable homes had been developed in Whitby over the past 11 years, the “vast majority” of which he said have been for rent.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “Many of these homes were developed as a result of the former Scarborough Borough Council releasing land to housing associations for this purpose.
“Where this was done and despite much local opposition, the council was able to provide 100 per cent affordable housing on these sites. Going forward, a further 89 affordable homes have planning consent on sites in Whitby.”
The town, which is a popular tourist destination, is facing a shortage of affordable homes and jobs which has resulted in young people being forced to “flee”, according to Coun Harrison.
He also said that local authorities, including the now-defunct Scarborough Council, were guilty of “inaction” in solving the housing problem.
Mr Rowe, North Yorkshire council’s assistant director for housing, told the LDRS that while the authority “fully understood” the housing pressures in Whitby, it was not “a simple matter of us prioritising social housing over private housing” and added that the council had to work “within the boundaries of the national legislation and policy”.
Mr Rowe said: “Where the council owns land suitable for development it is within our gift to determine how it is used taking into account a range of factors including the need for affordable housing.
“For privately owned sites however we are constrained by legislation.”
He added: “We do not have the power to insist that private house builders only develop affordable homes on sites we do not own. The current planning requirement for affordable housing on private developments in Whitby is 30 per cent – this figure was agreed as part of the Local Plan and based on evidence as to what is viable in the local area.”
The full meeting of Whitby Town Council, on Tuesday, September 5, is set to see councillors discuss the motion.