Agenda item

Monitoring delivery of 1,000 extra new homes on rural exception sites

To consider the attached report.


The Executive Board:


(a)        RESTATED its support to seek achievement of 1,000 additional affordable homes and asked officers to bring forward a report on this issue at its next meeting.


(b)        AGREED to consider the introduction of a stretch target after the Local Plans had been adopted.


(c)        NOTED progress towards delivery.


Councillor Lewis Herbert, Chairman of the Executive Board, invited Councillor Bridget Smith to put forward a statement on this item. 


Councillor Smith referred to a number of historical supporting documents and press releases relating to the City Deal commitment to provide 1,000 additional homes and noted that key words in each of the publications were ‘commit’, ‘affordable’ and ‘for local people’.  She felt that when local Members were asked to sell the City Deal to their residents, the big headline for those in South Cambridgeshire was that the Deal itself would deliver 1,000 additional, affordable homes on rural exception sites for local people.  She was therefore disappointed that the report was seeking the Board to renege on that deal so that the 1,000 additional homes were not delivered by the City Deal and that they would not be affordable, exclusively on rural exception sites or for local people. 


Councillor Smith was of the opinion that the report manipulated the figures and the long accepted definition of rural exception sites, which she assumed was in order to tick off a target.  She did not believe that the recommendations in the report, or the alternative suggestion put forward at the meeting of the Joint Assembly on 7 July 2016, would stand up to legal challenge, believing that this would cause irreparable damage to the reputation of the City Deal.  Councillor Smith therefore called for the Executive Board to stick firmly to the vision and principles of the City Deal which were originally signed up to.


Councillor Herbert in response to the question said that this issue would be debated by Members of the Board as part of considering the item.


The Executive Board considered a report which set out how a commitment in the City Deal to provide 1,000 additional dwellings on rural exception sites by 2031, in addition to the accelerated delivery of 33,480 homes, was progressing and the way it would be monitored. 


Stephen Kelly, Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development at Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council, presented the report and explained that the City Deal commitment was to provide 1,000 additional units above the Local Plan allocation.  In terms of a methodology, officers had identified a process for monitoring those additional homes which should be included.  Mr Kelly referred Members to the appendices of the report which set out a list of eligible sites, as published in housing trajectory for 2015, together with predicted completions from eligible planning permissions permitted since the housing trajectory up to June 2016.  It was noted on this basis that 430 homes on top of planned housing growth could now be included towards the City Deal’s commitment of 1,000 additional dwellings, with a further 170 dwellings having recently received planning permission that would also be eligible. 


Mr Kelly reflected on the meeting of the Joint Assembly held on 7 July 2016 where this issue was debated and a suggestion was made to include solely those affordable homes of the developments outlined in the appendix as being an appropriate definition of eligible homes for the 1,000 additional homes on rural exception sites as part of the City Deal commitment.  From a planning perspective he confirmed that either approach could be monitored for this purpose.  Councillor Roger Hickford, Chairman of the Joint Assembly, reiterated that this alternative suggestion had been put forward at the meeting with five Members voting in favour, four Members voting against and four Member abstaining.  He reported that there had been significant debate on this issue in terms of whether the original deal included a commitment to the additional homes being affordable and within rural exception sites, and whether what was proposed in the report represented the spirit of what was understood as being the original commitment. 


Councillor Burkitt made the point that the word ‘affordable’ did not appear in the original City Deal agreement document, although a report to South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Cabinet in 2014 did refer to affordable housing in the context of the 1,000 additional homes.  He accepted the comprise suggested by the Joint Assembly and wanted the Board to progress beyond 1,000 additional homes, but accepted that Local Plans had not yet been adopted.  He therefore proposed that the Board should consider the introduction of a stretch target after the Local Plans had been adopted.  This was supported by the Board.


Alex Colyer, Executive Director (Corporate Services) at South Cambridgeshire District Council, reported that the Government’s challenge at the time of the City Deal negotiations was not in relation to affordable homes but delivery of 1,000 additional homes over and above those set out in the Local Plans.  He added that it had been the Councils that had suggested rural exception sites as being the only option available at that time given the stage in the Local Plan process and that it was a commitment derived from the Council’s management teams to deliver more affordable housing as part of this.  He emphasised that it was not the intention of officers through this report to dilute the issue of affordable housing in rural exception sites or manipulate any figures and that officers from the three partner Councils were committed to the delivery of affordable housing in rural exception sites.  He made the point that housing in these sites in future would likely not be 100% affordable, but would be predominantly affordable, and that mechanisms were in place to respond to the Government’s challenge.  Mr Colyer was pleased to accept the challenge from Councillor Burkitt in respect of a new target and confirmed that a review mechanism for this purpose had been factored in at a very early stage of the process. 


Mark Reeve accepted the statement from Councillor Bridget Smith and supported her sentiments, agreeing that it looked liked the report had been written to manipulate the figures in order to meet the Government’s target. 


Councillor Ian Bates suggested that more time was required by the Board to give due consideration to this issue. 


Councillor Herbert reflected on the discussion both at the meeting of the Joint Assembly and of Board Members at this meeting.  He thought it was appropriate that changing circumstances should be recognised and noted that the original target in the City Deal agreement document was 1,000 additional homes, but stated that he and the Board wanted to go further than that and ensure that they were affordable homes. 


The Executive Board therefore:


(a)        RESTATED its support to seek achievement of 1,000 additional affordable homes and asked officers to bring forward a report on this issue at its next meeting.


(b)        AGREED to consider the introduction of a stretch target after the Local Plans had been adopted.


(c)        NOTED progress towards delivery.

Supporting documents: