Affordable housing ‘not viable’ in Burwash scheme says developer

Artist's impression of the Strand Meadow development
Artist's impression of the Strand Meadow development

Developers say building affordable homes as part of a major housing development in Burwash is ‘not viable’.

In an application to be considered by Rother District Council’s planning committee next Thursday (January 17), developer Park Lane Homes (South East) Limited is seeking planning permission to build 30 homes at the Strand Meadow site in Burwash.

According to council papers, the site has previously been granted outline planning permission for housing on two separate occasions, most recently in 2017 for a 30-home development including 12 affordable homes

But the developer now argues it cannot deliver any affordable homes as high construction costs and fees would eat into its expected return from house sales.

In a statement submitted as part of the application, a spokesman for the developer said: “This gross margin is significantly below any margin normally allowed in viability and the scheme is therefore, technically unviable but is at least deliverable.

“In summary we conclude that the development does not generate any surplus over the benchmark land value to fund the full policy quota of smaller units or any affordable housing on site or other financial contributions over and above CIL.”

However, the developer’s argument has proven controversial with several local groups including the High Weald Unit, which argues the scheme would not ‘address the declining affordability of the High Weald’.

Meanwhile Burwash Parish Council – which objects to the overall scheme on a number of grounds – argues the viability process should be open to full scrutiny.

Despite these concerns, Rother District Council’s housing and asset development officer concludes that the scheme would not be viable if it includes affordable housing.

However the officer recommends the inclusion of a ‘robust review mechanism’ which would require developers to review viability at a later stage. This would be once 50 per cent of the homes are built on site or after two years if no work has begun.

The planning committee is recommended to grant planning permission on these terms.

For more details search for application reference RR/2018/1787/P on the Rother District Council planning website.