What kind of site?
Parish Council commissioned a repeat of the Housing Needs Survey in mid 2019. Every household in the Parish had a form to fill if they needed a new home within five years. The response was significantly more than five years previously, quite possibly because the sight of real homes being built for local people, all for affordable rent, has given folks confidence that Eastington really can do this.
The 2019 report revealed apparent needs, in the next five years, for:
- 20 homes for market purchase
- 18 homes for affordable shared ownership
- 33 homes for affordable rent
The 20 homes for market purchase are available in Great Oldbury and so do not fall into ECLT’s remit.
The need for Shared Ownership is an opportunity for ECLT to provide a form of affordable ownership, under local connection rules, which is quite limited in Alkerton. This does not influence the choice of site, however, these homes having much the same footprint as rented homes.
Taken together, the 51 homes identified for affordable housing is far more than Fullers Close (ECLT Project One) can provide. 51 into 23 won’t go.
Sooner started, the sooner homes will be built
ECLT therefore began planning for Project Two late in 2019, aiming for 25 to 30 affordable homes to include at least 10 Shared ownership homes. Homes England grants of £72,000 with a Solar Fund grant of £8,000 as the local contribution to the project, have paid for the reports included the Feasibility Stage
Since this is our second project, we felt confident of managing most of the Feasibility Stage without a Housing Association partner and the scale of grants available certainly helped! The principle was that the more consultants and solicitors we employed directly, the more control we could keep in parish hands and the less effort would be required by a potential Housing Association partner.
So, in summary, we were looking for:
- a site of about 3 acres, at an affordable cost
- compliant with our own Neighbourhood Plan
- compliant with Stroud DC Local Plan
Eastington Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP)
The NDP, in Section 8 of Policy EP5, encourages the promotion of exception sites for Affordable Housing, within the provisions of Stroud DC Policy HC4.
The NDP’s interpretation of “sustainability” within section 8.0.6 of the NDP, requires exception sites to be within 800 metres from Alkerton Cross (the “Cross”) and 800 metres from OHMG, yielding a rugby-ball shape of the sustainable zone.
Only two other sites are almost as well situated as Homeground. One was rejected on planning history grounds and the other due to a high cost of access.
The NDP envisaged a need for 100 Affordable homes by 2031 and Project Two, coming on top of Fullers Close, keeps ECLT on target to deliver that for the Parish.
Strategic Compliance with SDC Local Plan 2015 – 2031
SDC’s Local Plan, adopted in November 2015, laid out strategic plans for commercial housebuilding but has an allowance for “windfall” such as ECLT Project One at Fullers Close.
Any rural parish is allowed to bring forward “exception” sites, beyond a village envelope, provided those houses are primarily for Affordable housing. This principle has existed in planning law for at least 40 years, the latest version being detailed under Local Plan Policy HC4.
The principal points for compliance with HC4 are:-
- The evidence of a suitable HNS and that homes must primarily be Affordable;
- Ownership of the land by the ECLT or the parish in perpetuity;
- Sustainability of the site in accordance with National Planning Policy Framework
The 2019 HNS fulfils the first criterion and Project Two is designed to be 100% affordable – a classic exception site.
ECLT has an obligation within Part A of its Rules of Incorporation, called an “Asset Lock”, which has to comply with section 29 of the 2014 Act. Fullers Close is now owned in perpetuity by ECLT, for example. ECLT has Heads of Terms for the 5-acre site, “Homeground”, designed to fulfil the Asset Lock in a similar manner.
As to sustainability, Homeground is even closer to parish services than Fullers Close, as seen in the “rugby ball” above.
The SDC Local Plan is under review but Project Two will continue to comply with the emerging policy DHC4.