Hertfordshire councillor calls on planning authorities to be “robust” with developers over affordable housing

Councillor Stephen Boulton says council should ensure developers don't "squirm out of building social and affordable housing"

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 9:41 am
Updated Thursday, 27th May 2021, 9:42 am

Leading county councillor Stephen Boulton has called on planning authorities to be “robust” with developers, to ensure they meet their obligations to provide social or affordable housing.

Providing a certain amount of social or affordable housing can be a condition of a builder being allowed to go ahead with a development.

But it is then possible for developers to argue – at a later date – that the provision of those affordable properties is not financially ‘viable’, in current market conditions.

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At the annual meeting of the county council on Tuesday, May 25, Labour Cllr Asif Khan raised the issue with executive member for growth, infrastructure and planning Cllr Stephen Boulton.

And he asked how the county council could work with districts and borough councils to ensure developers “don’t squirm out of building social and affordable housing”.

Cllr Boulton – who is also executive member for environment, planning, estates and development at Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council – said that this had caused him “some concern” over a period of years.

“The problem I see is that so many developers sort out their costs so that they say there is no money for affordable housing and social housing,” he said. “And this, I think, is unacceptable.”

Cllr Boulton said much more work needed to be done on the developers costs, including site values, which go to make-up how much can be afforded for social and affordable housing.

He pointed to potential future development of Green Belt sites – where the value of these sites with planning permission would increase from agricultural values to residential values.

And he suggested that the increase in the value of the site, should not be allowed to impact on the provision of social or affordable housing.

He said: “[…] we should not lose sight of the fact that many of these developers – particularly some which are developing their own sites, rather than buying in new sites – will have a significant uplift.

“But I don’t want that uplift to be able to reduce the value that can be put on social and affordable housing.”

Cllr Boulton stressed that the county council was not the ‘ prime mover’ in this, but that they should assist wherever they can.

And he said his advice to local authorities would be to “be robust with developers”.