In this series of pieces Jonathan Griffin has looked at the role of the Development Plan, the nature of the parish, our housing needs, quality and possible locations. There are no easy answers if we believe that some development needs to take place to provide people with homes. In this last piece in the series, he flags up some hazards.
Everything I have said has been focused on what the community wants but there are big problems with this approach: ‘the community’ neither owns land, nor has the money to develop anything. All we can do is to say what we would like to see. It remains for landowners to part with the land at a reasonable cost and for developers to come forward with proposals.
Few developers like building affordable homes. It is much more lucrative for them to develop open-market houses with large gardens which can be sold for the maximum price.
They are constrained, however. Any development over 5 houses in Mylor has to provide a minimum of 50% affordable houses. The actual level is negotiated with the Cornwall Council planners so that the developer gets an acceptable profit. This is not a negotiation we can influence, even if the Parish Council can object to the result. If we insist on 100% affordable housing then the developers might simply walk away and find another parish, but there may be other ways of achieving what we want.
We are aware of a number of mechanisms which can get around the developers’ stranglehold and we will be exploring these. We will also be looking for existing brownfield sites or sites with buildings which are perhaps underused, encouraging existing owners to re-develop these for housing.
The other difficulty arises over second homes. We could stop new houses being used as second homes by adopting the ‘St Ives formula’ which specifically bans this. We know that there can be problems creating a simple mechanism for checking that this is adhered to, but it is worth a try.
We also need to stop people buying existing homes as second homes. if we sell up to these people then we are exacerbating an existing problem and leaving the community weaker. Of course we all want the maximum value when we sell but surely this should be done responsibly.
To return to the original piece: if we have an agreed Development Plan then we have a simple mechanism that will help us state the community’s wishes and give strength to the planners when they are faced with an unacceptable proposal. A Development Plan will not solve all of our problems but without it, we are exposed to the whims and charms of the developers and the vagaries of planning inspectors whose mission, set by central government, seems to be to build as many houses as possible, wherever developers want to build them.