Plans for 1,000 new homes in Rother to be discussed

Ambitious plans to build up to 1,000 extra new homes in Rother are to be considered by councillors next week.

On Monday (November 25), Rother District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee is set to discuss a report into how the authority can speed up house building through a 15-year £200million housing delivery programme.

Plans are to be discussed

Plans are to be discussed

According to council papers, the option preferred by officers would involve setting up a Local Housing Company (LHC) tasked with bringing forward new developments in the district. This company would be owned by the council and be given funding to buy and develop land.

The proposal comes as part of the council’s new Housing, Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy (HHRSS), which was adopted earlier this year and calls for the authority to step in to increase the local supply of new homes.

In a report to be considered by the committee, a Rother spokesman said: “Other local authorities who have undertaken similar programmes have been realistic in their ambitions.

“Wealden District Council for example, when setting up Sussex Weald Homes, targeted delivery of 250 homes in the first five years.

“As an authority we have less experience in house building and therefore it should be realistic for us to deliver up to 200 homes by 2025. However, an ambitious programme should seek to demonstrate continued growth. 

“It is recommended therefore that the Council set a target of 1,000 homes to be built on policy compliant, mixed tenure developments by 2035.”

The proposals come after relatively slow house building in recent years. According to council papers, Rother was set a target to build 335 dwellings year between 2011 and 2028, but has only achieved an average 198 dwellings per year since 2011. 

As a result the council would have to deliver 458 homes a year – or a total of more than 4,100 homes – to hit its target by the end of the plan period.

These slow rates of housing delivery, officers say, have seen local residents struggle to buy or rent good-quality and reasonably-priced market homes in the district.

The issue was considered as part of a council review into housing last year, which concluded that the authority should directly intervene to accelerate and increase overall housing supply.

The developments (as with similar schemes in other areas) would likely be a mix of market for sale and affordable housing, which would largely be transferred to social housing providers.

Typically council-backed schemes have more consistent levels of affordable housing than commercial schemes.

Under this strategy, areas already allocated for housing would be the first choice for new development by the LHC. However, the report singles out North East Bexhill (now known as Worsham) as a particular area for future development.

While built by a council owned company, the houses would not be council houses per se as they would be owned by the LHC prior to sale. This would avoid the council needing to set up additional funds or limiting the numbers it builds.

A final decision on the recommendations would be taken at a full council vote, following discussion by the council’s cabinet in the coming weeks.

If approved money would be drawn from reserves to fund the costs of setting up the LHC and staffing costs.