Scarborough councillors clash over affordable housing plan

Scarborough councillors have clashed over plans from the borough authority to build hundreds of new affordable homes on open spaces.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 9:22 am
Updated Friday, 18th June 2021, 9:24 am

Earlier this year Scarborough Council revealed it was looking to partner with the private sector in order to meet a shortfall in high-quality homes in order to reduce the borough’s housing waiting list.

The authority wants to create a fifty-fifty partnership in a Joint Venture, possibly with a registered social landlord (RSL) to help meet its housing targets.

Following a public consultation, nine sites have been identified that are set to be taken forward with the council due to start a procurement process to find a partner for the Joint Venture.

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There are currently 2,000 families on Scarborough’s housing list waiting for an available home. (Photo: Getty/Matt Cardy)

Yesterday, members of the council’s Lives and Homes Overview and Scrutiny Committee scrutinised the plans with members clashing over the best way forward.

Cllr Bill Chatt said he was concerned about the cost to the council with £840,000 in upfront costs and £100,000 in annual costs for up to 30 years.

Council director Richard Bradley said the costs to the council would be recovered from the joint-partnership and the scheme would be “cost neutral” to the authority.

Cllr Chatt said it was also “unfair” that the consultation process was being undertaken during the pandemic when “many people are sat at home and do not dare go out and get involved in anything”.

The council estimates it needs to build 220 affordable homes a year to keep up with demand.

Any site taken forward would require planning permission before it would be handed over to the joint-venture and each site would have to be signed off by the council’s cabinet individually.

The committee today heard that the Joint Venture was the best way for the council to maintain control of the type and standard of homes to be built on the sites.

Cllr Sam Cross of the Yorkshire Coast Independents Alliance, said that he did not think the council should move forward with the scheme as it was.

He said: “I am a bit concerned.

“I have been listening to what has been said that eight of these [sites] are public open space and I think in these Covid times is it really proper use [of the land] building houses when they come at the cost of losing public open space.”

Cllr Cross said he would like the council to move forward with just “one or two” sites.

The council’s legal director, Lisa Dixon responded that this was the “start of the process” and that the scheme would be coming back to the authority later in the year when more information would be available to councillors before they had to “press the button” to agree the Joint Venture.

There are currently 2,000 families on Scarborough’s housing waiting list with the council estimating it needs to build 220 affordable homes a year to keep up with demand.

Since 2016 it has averaged just 110 a year.

Cllr Chatt told the meeting that the council should hold off until the Government announces its Local Government Reorganisation plan for North Yorkshire that will see district councils, including Scarborough, scrapped.

He said: “This is selling the family jewellery before the reorganization of local government comes in.”

The Cluster of Independent Members councillor added that the communities were not in favour of losing the open spaces and the councillors were being “rushed” into a decision.

The former cabinet member added: “Every time we have tried this in the past it has not really paid dividends for the borough.

“What it has actually done is embarrass us.”

Labour Cllr Joanne Maw said that the council had to tackle the housing crisis in the borough.

She said: “Yes, open spaces really are important but so are homes for people to live in. It is in the report that we have got 2,000 people waiting for a home.

“It is a fantastic opportunity to have homes for people who desperately need them, why shouldn’t we allow people to get onto the housing ladder?”

Cllr Jane Mortimer added the authority could not sit and wait for the Government to make a decision on Local Government Reorganisation.

She added: “We do not even know if it is going to go ahead, we could wait for months and still not move forward.

“I think now is the time to start.”

The sites being considered include a parcel of land that encompasses two holes of Whitby Golf Club that could provide up to 60 homes.

Two large areas at Musham Bank in Eastfield are also in the scheme and are earmarked for up to 600 homes.

The sites classed as public open spaces, which will also proceed as part of the scheme include two pieces of land at Rievaulx Road and one in California Road in Whitby. Land at Sandybed Lane and Sandybed Crescent in Scarborough and open spaces in Clarence Drive, Filey and Moor Lane, Newby are also included.

Land at West End View in Cayton and Prince of Wales Terrace in Scarborough have been dropped from the proposal following the consultation period.

More than 100 objections were received during the consultation to the parcels of land being used for affordable housing.

Last year, the cabinet gave the green light for the scheme which will work with providers of social housing and private developers to address a homes shortage due to the average house price in the borough being nine times the local average wage.

The council sees the Better Homes project as critical to addressing the borough’s shortage of quality housing for local people, which is also affordable.

The committee today voted to recommend the scheme to Cabinet, with councillors Cross and Chatt both voting against.