Assumed house price levels ‘out of date’ on North Horsham scheme

Liberty Property Trust's latest plans for North of Horsham development SUS-160930-104412001
Liberty Property Trust's latest plans for North of Horsham development SUS-160930-104412001
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Increasing projected house prices at the North Horsham strategic site could deliver more affordable homes, according to new figures.

Liberty’s scheme for 2,750 homes north of the A264 as currently proposed is set to provide just 18 per cent affordable housing, with another 12 per cent ‘housing for local needs’, a mix of private rented, discount market, and custom build.

This is far short of the council’s 35 per cent target set in its planning framework less than two years ago, but a partially redacted viability report has been used to justify this level.

However the assumed level of house market prices has been challenged as almost ‘two years out of date’ by Rudgwick campaigner Paul Kornycky.

He suggests that closer to 25 per cent affordable homes could be delivered if a ten per cent increase in house prices is assumed in line with regional changes since September 2015.

His calculations also take into account a six per cent increase in construction costs, and would also deliver millions more in section 106 funds for infrastructure and community facilities.

Although a less heavily redacted version of a consultant’s study of the viability report has been published since the scheme was discussed by the council’s Planning Committee North last month, three key recommendations remain secret to the public.

A clawback clause is included and could deliver extra funds for the council if house prices increase.

Councillors who represent the north of the district and determine major planning applications in the area, agreed last month to refer the decision on the scheme to Full Council on Monday May 22 so all members of the authority will have a say.

Liberty has written to the council to clarify the position on viability and the level of affordable housing.

Derek Lloyd, associate director - development for Liberty, said: “Horsham District Council engaged the services of Dixon Searle Partnership, a specialist in viability assessments, who agreed the format of the standard residual valuation model that Liberty and our consultant Turner Morum prepared.

“This is a standard valuation model widely used for strategic developments to ensure it fairly appraises the scheme.

“To be clear there are no additional layers of cost associated with Liberty’s delivery model as the valuation methodology is completely agnostic as to delivery methodology. Your officers and DSP confirm that.

“Whilst the viability assessment is a snapshot in time, your officers and DSP pushed very hard for additional value in all areas and, in particular, Housing for Local Needs (HFLN).

“In doing so the council has negotiated the HFLN upwards from Liberty’s historical initial proposals of 20 per cent to the conditional 30 per cent (25+5) to the final level of 30 per cent ensuring that no element was contingent on business park delivery.

“The final mix of housing (within the HFLN) matches the aspirations of emerging Government policy as set out in the Housing White Paper designed to promote accessibility of housing to a much wider demographic.

“Housing Policy 16 of the HDPF clearly acknowledges that the mix of housing types, sizes and tenures for each site will depend on the viability of the scheme.

“The council are also requiring a review mechanism which will reassess the project periodically (every five years) with a view to increasing housing for local needs in the event that there is an uplift in value across the site.

“This review mechanism is in addition to the baseline provision of 30 per cent HFLN, which the DSP report found to be a reasonable level of provision given the quality of development to be delivered and the considerable site infrastructure costs.”

Meanwhile the Green Party’s parliamentary candidate Catherine Ross has called for the plans to be torn up.

She said: “The Tory-led council has an abysmal record when it comes to development schemes, consistently failing to keep its promises and hold developers to account.

“Thousands of new houses have been built in Horsham in the last five years, but many have been on green field sites, without any of the promised infrastructure - GP surgeries, schools, green spaces and community centres.”

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