COUNCIL chiefs have been criticised after giving the green light to the first 400 homes on the Long Marston Airfield development with only half the usually required number of affordable homes.
Cala Homes is set to build up to 3,500 new homes on the site, which will also include shops, new schools, and space for businesses.
But despite the affordable housing quota meeting just half of the 35 per cent required in the council’s Core Strategy, the agreement was secured by a four to three vote at a Stratford District Council (SDC) planning meeting.
In a viability study, the developer argued it could not afford to meet the full requirement because the first phase included costs for future development stages.
But Liberal Democrat district councillor Peter Moorse believes Cala could profit from the shortfall by some £3million.
He suggested a clawback should be agreed so SDC could share in the profit – similar to that of Homes England which has a multi-million investment in the development.
But the option was dismissed by committee members.
Coun Moorse was ‘disappointed’ by the decision.
He told The Observer: “Affordable housing has been agreed at half the normal level and this is a major concession to the developer, based on their viability statement.
“This estate is expected to be built out over a six or seven year period and a lot can happen to costs and house prices in that time. If the average sales price of the market houses turns out to be £10,000 higher than the figures assumed in the viability study, then the developer will make extra profits of over £3million.
“I believe that the council – and council tax payers – should be entitled to part of that extra profit, in exchange for the concession they granted on affordable housing.”
He added the Conservative-led council seemed unwilling to use clawback agreements, used by ‘many other councils’, despite supporting them.
But council planning spokesman Coun Darren Pemberton defended the committee’s decision.
He said: “Clawback was technically an option but Homes England would be at the front of the queue as they are providing a direct contribution.
“There is no scenario where Cala would make so much extra profit on the 400 site to repay Homes England £13.4million and then have something to pay the district council. As such this was not included in the agreement that the planning committee approved.
“This was a complex case in balancing policy against securing the best level of rented housing in very unusual circumstances. I have said publicly that ‘it is not difficult to make money building houses in this district’ so I am intuitively against giving developers an easy ride and do not believe Cala have been let off lightly.
“The garden village will bring significant benefit to our residents over many years to come and as a district council believe that the right balance has been struck on this occasion.”