Development to have social housing ‘ghetto’

JPCT 030712 Highwood Estate, Berkley's Homes in Horsham. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 030712 Highwood Estate, Berkley's Homes in Horsham. Photo by Derek Martin

An ‘affordable housing ghetto’ will be built to the west of Horsham after councillors admitted they had to learn lessons in reviewing legal agreements.

On Tuesday members of the Horsham District Council development management north committee said they had no choice but to approve plans for 35 affordable homes on the outskirts of the Berkeley Homes West of Horsham development because of a pre-existing legal agreement.

The 27 three-bedroom and eight four-bedroom houses, which would sit west of Windrum Close, form part of the 1,044 home scheme where work has already started south of Tanbridge House School.

Writing on behalf of the Horsham Society John Steele told the committee: “No matter how it is dressed up, this will remain a ghetto of affordable housing bolted on to the very margin of the overall development, thus failing to meet the requirement to incorporate affordable housing seamlessly.”

He added that it was ‘a wasted opportunity’ to create a design fit for the 21st century.

Berkeley Homes said that building affordable homes in this way will enable them to deliver much needed social housing earlier than previously thought.

They have also increased the width and length of the site by two metres to meet members’ concerns about density.

However local member Laurence Deakins (Con, Denne) said he could not believe his colleagues allowed for such a crowded development to be put forward when they approved outline planning permission last year.

Mr Deakins, who was not a councillor at the time, said: “I was extremely disappointed when I saw this. This is a ghetto of affordable housing. The density of the development is higher than those around it.”

David Sheldon (LDem, Denne) said: “I think this is a lesson in paying attention to Section 106 agreements when they come to us in the first place.

“Having said that, I welcome the small changes the developer has made. They have made small but significant improvements in the way it looks.”

There were also concerns about the design of the homes. Residents of nearby streets said they were ‘of poor design aesthetically’ and ‘the rooms appear to be small even for affordable housing’.

Denne Neighbourhood Council said although they welcomed the affordable homes, plots 26 to 30 had very little variety in design materials, small attic spaces and were ‘not attractive’.

Chairman of the council Leonard Crosbie (LDem, Trafalgar) added: “In a couple of large schemes we have come up against this. The first thing we must discuss is affordable housing. I think officers need to give us some guidelines when we make decisions. It’s come back to bite us a couple of times now.”

Godfrey Newman (LDem, Forest) said: “I am as against affordable housing ghettos as much as anyone, but we have just got to make sure it’s high quality build.”

Mr Deakins was the only member to vote against the plans. After the decision he said: “I think it is disgusting this is going to be built.”