There is some discussion going on in local social media groups about progress in creating more affordable homes. We’ve written this blog to provide some clarity.
To start at the beginning: in the NDP surveys the community clearly says it wants more affordable homes in the Parish. It also says it does not want any more open market houses to be built in the Parish. And – it says it want the AONB to be protected. These conclusions were reflected in the full draft NDP which went to consultation last summer.
The rules of the game
This will sound a bit like the rules of a board game but they are actually the rules for taking decisions set by the government in the National Planning Policy Framework and/or by Cornwall Council in their Local Plan.
In looking for sites for new affordable housing, the NDP has had two options. Either:
- It selected a site, or sites, and marked these as suitable for development, or
- It drew a tight line around the settlements of Flushing and Mylor Bridge and challenged developers to come forward with proposals based on their choice of sites adjacent to the settlement boundaries.
The disadvantage of selecting sites was that they would then become what is called Policy 8 sites. This would mean that they would contain a mix of open market houses and affordable houses but with a relatively low proportion of affordable houses. If the NDP adopted the second option then the sites would be Policy 9 sites which would encourage a developer to provide 100% affordable housing.
As an example, a Policy 8 site might contain 30 houses of which only about 10 might be affordable. A Policy 9 site might be able to provide the same number of affordable homes but with only 15 houses in total. So, 30 houses of which 10 are affordable, vs 15 which are all affordable: which delivers more affordable homes AND makes best use of the valuable green fields of an AONB ?
The NDP recommended the second (Policy 9) approach and this was agreed by the Parish Council. The downside meant that the NDP could not choose the sites.
There were obvious risks to the Policy 9 approach, not least that a developer might suggest a wholly unsuitable site. That is where the NDP document comes in. It contains ‘constraints’ which show which and where these ‘unsuitable sites’ might be: because of wildlife, important views, accessibility by road, the community’s preferences and so on.
If an unsuitable development came along, the Parish Council could argue against it, based on what is in the NDP. It should be stressed that the Parish Council is not a decision-maker, only a consultee. The decision on any development lies with Cornwall Council as the Local Planning Authority.
Those are the rules of the game. So, where are we now?
We all know that the Tregew Meadow extension in Flushing is going ahead with Cornwall Council as the developer. The good news is that this site was favoured by the community in the NDP consultation.
The bad news is that work has been delayed at Cornwall Council: not because of anything anyone in Mylor Parish has said or done, but because of the rules of ‘purdah’ that apply before a local election. This will take place on 6 May.
‘Purdah’ means that officials cannot get decisions out of elected representatives and must do nothing to rock the political boat. With elections around the corner it is understandable that they are marking time. Once the elections are out of the way, work will resume and we all hope that Tregew Meadows will go ahead swiftly. We are told that there is no loss of enthusiasm by the Cornwall Council for this project.
Things are not as straightforward for Mylor Bridge. In the NDP’s surveys, the community favoured a northward extension of the village, perhaps by extending the Robert Rundle Way development in the same way as Tregew Meadow is being extended. However, the Parish Council has a preference for a site near Saltbox Close, which was only proposed midway through the Regulation 14 consultation on the full draft Plan last summer. The problem with this is that no one has asked the community; indeed, the NDP surveys showed that this site was not favoured.
Some people argue that the Saltbox site is ‘next in line for development’ as it was included in something called the SHLAA (Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2016). This was a technical assessment of land done by Cornwall Council in 2016. In fact the SHLAA put no order of priority on the sites identified and its introduction says ‘Inclusion in the Assessment does not imply that [a site] will be made available for housing or granted planning permission. [The SHLAA] is a technical study not a policy document.
So, in summary, we have a site being developed in Flushing – great news – but not yet an agreed site in Mylor Bridge. Finding one in Mylor Bridge which satisfies the community as a whole will take a degree of sensitivity. It is not enough to say ‘here is an available site, just build here’ because to do so will almost certainly bring a strong reaction from parts of the community.
Many people have asked why the NDP Steering Group is not making things happen. It is not actually our job. Our job was to find out what the community wanted and put that in the Plan.
The job of assessing developers’ proposals and liaising with them through the planning process and making sure that affordable housing is provided in the right place with the community’s support is in the hands of the Parish Council’s Affordable Housing Working Party. We hope that they will seek and respond to the community’s views.
If the Parish Council wants to amend the NDP document to go for a site-led approach, which it is entitled to do, then this will require a complete re-draft, further consultations and a much greater delay before we see any new affordable homes in the parish.
A further question:
How many houses do we actually need and who stands to get one? This is a related question which Iwe will address in another blog, coming soon.
If you are interested in further answers to some of the questions that arise from this blog, have a look at our FAQ page. This answers questions like:
- Are Mylor Bridge residents trying to stop affordable housing being built?
- Will new affordable homes in Flushing be delayed?
- I have been told that unless houses are all built at the same time, Flushing residents will lose out to people from Mylor Bridge
- Why delay in deciding on a development site in Mylor Bridge?