Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce – author, poet, painter


Grove Farm Affordable Housing? It’s just an illusion.

Judging by a letter from John Pateman-Gee, Mid-Suffolk’s Senior Planning Officer, published today on both Stradbroke’s web sites, it appears that the Grove Farm Development proposal is being scaled down to 44 houses from 54 houses, with all the ten houses removed from the proposal being affordable housing.

This raises several points.

The first question I have is why the letter was apparently addressed to a single parish councillor, yet starts with “Dear Everyone.” A supplementary question would be, that if I have the wrong end of the stick and the letter was addressed to the Parish Council, why it was not immediately shared with the entire Parish Council by email, and indeed why Mr Pateman-Gee did not email it to all councillors in the first place.

The second point I’d like to make is that the revised proposal actually merely revises the development back to the size of the original proposal, which in itself is too large a development, bearing in mind that there are at least another 12 houses already with planning permission in the village. Someone far more cynical than I might suggest that this has been the developer’s strategy from the very beginning – to increase the proposed development to a size which would be certain to bring protests from a majority of villagers, and then to reduce it to the size which was intended all along to make it appear that the developer had actually listened to local protests. This is not an improvement on the 54-house proposal. It is still far larger than the 24-house development all those who oppose the current development plans say they could support.

The third point is this – when the 54-house proposal went to Parish Council, two of our youngest parish councillors very eloquently and movingly argued for the development on the grounds of the 50% affordable housing it promised to bring to the village. I wonder if those two councillors feel at all betrayed now. Even though affordable housing would still account for 38.6% of the development (17 houses), this move most certainly confirms the suspicions I and others voiced at the time of the parish council meeting which narrowly voted for the development, which were that the developer would gradually decrease the number of affordable houses in the development. Furthermore, it raises the question as to whether or not the developer actually plans to build any affordable housing at all as part of the development. It certainly does not inspire trust.

Add to this the fact that the current government’s policy is to cut its funding for housing associations, forcing them to borrow funds for new housing against their current stock of housing (see my blog post of 14th April 2015), there’s an even bigger possibility that the Grove Farm development will see no affordable housing built at all.

The revision to the proposal means that Stradbroke Parish Council will have to vote on this proposal once more, and that it will, once more, have to be listed on the Mid-Suffolk Planning Department’s web site. We need to make sure that the voices of the villagers are again heard through the objection process, tiresome as this might be.

So, in summary, developer makes first over-sized proposal, withdraws it, makes even more over-sized proposal to ensure even greater protests, amends very over-sized proposal to make it appear as if it’s listening, cuts affordable housing percentage, casts significant doubt on any affordable housing being built. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Just an illusion.

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