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Building on Failure - Spelthorne Housing Strategy

June 3, 2020 11:46 AM

Housing under construction (Lawrence Nichols)Spelthorne has a growing demand for genuinely affordable housing

The new Spelthorne Housing Strategy for 2020 to 2025 has been published. It is full of high aspirations and uplifting statements of intent, but on closer examination it shows a record of underachievement.

The strategy is clear that nowhere near enough social housing has been provided in Spelthorne and the situation is getting worse - "Spelthorne has a growing demand for genuinely affordable housing". The Council has failed to deliver and this strategy will not resolve the situation.

In the strategy, the Council is forced to admit that "The overall provision of affordable housing has declined in recent years (see table below). The document goes on to note that "Over the past three years, the number of applicants on the Council's Housing Register has grown by 79%" with "eleven applicants for every social housing vacancy".

In the last three years, the number of affordable homes being built has slumped. Over the same period the Council has borrowed £1 billion to invest in commercial property. It is easy to see where the Conservatives priority really is.

New homes

Affordable

Percentage

2016-17

374

46

12.3%

2017-18

287

9

3.1%

2018-19

310

6

1.9%

Source: Spelthorne annual monitoring report 2019

The Council has made some limited steps to improve the situation, for example by converting unused space in the Council's own offices and with hostel and temporary accommodation developments.

The Council has established Knowle Green Estates to manage the Council's portfolio of housing and has indicated that it plans to build 100's of new homes. The problem with this is that the Council is planning to build far too few affordable units.

The Council has three major developments in planning or under development; Thameside House in Staines, Ceaser Court in Sunbury and at Ashford Hospital. None of these developments are planning to deliver the 40% affordable units that is required by the planning policy. The Ashford hospital site will be designated for "key workers", but this does not directly address the numbers on the housing waiting list.

The Thameside House development is planned to deliver 140 units with not one affordable home provided. This will be financed by public money with the Council planning to make a profit. Spelthorne Liberal Democrats regard this as being completely unacceptable.

Lib Dem Staines South councillor Cllr Nichola Cornes said "The Council has failed on it promises to deliver affordable housing and the actions of the Conservative administration are not going to resolve the situation. We need to see a step change in the approach to getting 40% of all new developments of over 14 units to be affordable. In particular the Council's own developments must maximise the delivery of affordable houses. The new housing strategy is a missed opportunity to demonstrate leadership and a genuine commitment to reducing the size of Spelthorne's housing waiting list".

A link to the Council's Housing Strategy can be found here.