In the fourth of his blog series Jonathan Griffin addresses the use of brownfield sites and infill for housing development. The problem, he says, is ‘where?’
In both the surveys we have run this year people have suggested infill and the use of brownfield sites as the best way to address any shortage of housing. In the first, 69% of respondents said that the best way to provide new homes that local people can afford was ‘by increasing housing density’. 59% specifically mentioned ‘infill’.
About 50 people mention infill or the use of brownfield sites in the recent Housing Needs Survey.
Infill is easier said than done as I hinted at in an earlier blog. It has a role to play but is very far from the answer to the provision of new affordable housing.
There are two big issues: the availability of land and planning regulations.
Recent developments in the Parish show what can be done. The award-winning Lemon Hill Gardens in Mylor Bridge is perhaps the best example of shoe-horning new homes into a cramped site, providing elderly people easy access to shops and services. The five recently-completed houses at Rosemary Gardens (Bell’s Hill, Mylor Bridge) also show how one house can be turned into five, making better use of space.
Similarly, the development at Tregew crossroads shows how existing buildings can be brought back into use and, with an extension or two, turned into several houses.
Other similar spaces will no doubt become available in due course. But none of these provide affordable homes. They are all open-market houses. The Rosemary Gardens houses are selling for around £400k, while the new Mylor Gardens houses have fetched an average of £481k; hardly in the ‘affordable’ bracket.
Infill may be a solution for small scale developments of open-market houses but not for affordable houses. Another Lemon Hill Gardens on single floors and/or with a resident warden or carer could help provide the type of housing older residents need, if only someone would develop it.
Which leads to the second issue: planning regulations. There is no requirement to include affordable houses in any development under five houses. This is why so many developers only plan for five.
There is an attractive infill site in Mylor Bridge which has planning permission for five open-market houses which could accommodate about 20 affordable houses in a small development and yet there is nothing we, or the planners, can do about it.
The only way we can develop more affordable houses is through major developments involving funding from other agencies and, because of building costs, building several houses in groups.
Infill is attractive as an idea and we need more of it, but can you think where we could find enough unused infill space to accommodate 42 houses? No? That, arguably, is why we need developments like Tregew Meadow and Robert Rundle Way.