Brighton & Hove’s largest private landlord – Downland Housing Trust – may give up on the city as a place to build after a fifth successive attempt in six years to deliver affordable housing was rejected by the City Council’s planning committee.
The rejection of the application to deliver 35 homes and a GP surgery on the old Gala Bingo site in Portland Rd [see earlier story ] appears to have been the final straw for Affinity Sutton – Downland’s parent company.
Although Downland intends to appeal the planning decision, in a statement the company’s group director of new business said: “We are disappointed this scheme did not get the go ahead given the recommendation by the planning officers and the support of residents and businesses. It seems as though the delivery of much-needed affordable homes is now almost impossible and as a result we are reviewing our future development plans in Brighton & Hove. This is not something that we take lightly given the significant need and the number of people on the housing waiting list”.
Downland Housing Trust is a registered social landlord [housing association] which owns in the region of 1,500 properties in the city – a property portfolio second only to the Council. The parent company Affinity Sutton has 54,000 homes and works with 122 local authorities. It is one of the country’s largest developers completing 1,200 new homes in 2009 and having 3,400 under construction this year; it enjoys an 84% satisfaction rating from its thousands of tenants in the UK.
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For a key player the size of Downland/Affinity Sutton [they don’t come much bigger] to throw in the towel is a dreadful indictment of the city’s planning process. If developers are going to invest in the city they need certainty.
By working with planning officers, Downland achieved a glowing officers’ report recommending approval. But elected members turning down applications at the last hurdle demonstrates a pressing need for them to get involved at a much earlier stage in the planning process.
If councillors are going to say “no” they need to do it before hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, of pounds are spent preparing applications. Developers can build anywhere in the UK; they will inevitably gravitate towards places that treat them fairly.
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