More affordable and accessible housing if Bedford's 2040 Local Plan is adopted

Meeting hears that the plan will see council commit to 1,355 such homes per year
Bedford Borough CouncilBedford Borough Council
Bedford Borough Council

If adopted, Bedford Borough Council’s Local Plan 2040 will help the council to ensure more affordable and accessible housing is built, a meeting heard.

The question from a member of the public, Mike Hyden, to the Housing Committee (Wednesday, January 18) asked about developers not meeting their quotas.

The question was read out at the virtual meeting by the committee chair, councillor Colleen Atkins (Labour, Harpur): “The council has recently published the Local Plan 2040 which includes the commitment to plan 1,355 homes to be built each year, which is much needed and very welcome.

“The council has previously talked about the difficulty that arises from housing developers not meeting the correct quota of affordable and accessible housing leading to various issues.

“For example, people with disabilities have to wait longer to get housed than those without disabilities.

“What options are open to the council to tackle this issue, and how can borough residents put pressure on housing developers to stick to their target quotas?”

Jon Shortland, the council’s chief officer for planning, infrastructure and economic growth, said: “The council has a policy of requiring 30 per cent of new homes to be affordable.

“However, the government allows developers to submit viability appraisals to demonstrate their case when they claim that they cannot make sufficient profit from a particular scheme if they provide that level of affordable housing.

“Needless to say, we test any such appraisals with our independent external advisers, but we can’t stop developers from submitting them.

“And if our advisers find that the developers assessment is correct we sometimes have to accept less than 30 percent,” he said.

Mr Shortland told the committee that the new local plan includes a new review mechanism policy, DM2.

“Which if adopted will ensure that if the market changes after a scheme is accepted with a reduced level of affordable housing we will now get a second bite at the cherry,” he said.

“So we might be able to move up from the level of affordable housing that we accepted when a scheme’s application came in.

“If it turns out that they’re selling the houses for more than they expected or the costs are less than expected.”

Also in the Local Plan 2040 is policy DM3(S) . Through this new housing developments will be expected to provide a mix of dwellings to meet the identified needs of the community.

“This says, amongst other things, that on sites of three or more dwellings 47 per cent of any new residential development should meet Category Two that’s accessible and adaptable dwellings of Approved Document M: Volume 1 of the building regulations,” Mr Shortland said.

“And sites of 20 or more dwellings must have a minimum of four per cent of all market housing and six per cent of affordable housing meeting Category Three requirements [wheelchair user dwellings].”

Approved Documents provide guidance on how to meet the building regulations.

Approved Document M: Volume 1 – Dwellings provides information about the ease of access to, and use of, buildings.

Including facilities for disabled visitors or occupants, and the ability to move through a building easily including to toilets and bathrooms.