Affordable housing: Harrogate 'missing out' claim

Concerned Harrogate residents who set up their own community housing group to campaign for more affordable homes says the council is missing a golden chance to ease the situation.

Friday, 5th January 2018, 4:17 pm
Updated Friday, 5th January 2018, 4:25 pm
Rebecca Colby and Sarah Hart who have set up Harrogate Affordable Homes Community Land Trust. (1702145AM1)

Rebecca Colby and Sarah Hart, co-founders of Harrogate Affordable Homes Community Land Trust, have been working closely with local authorities since launching the group nearly a year ago.

Harrogate Borough Council has even given them a grant to cover the trust’s official incorporation.

But the hardworking trust founders say they were disappointed that what they describe as adverse changes were made to the current draft Local Plan’s legal obligations on self-build homes.

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Rebecca Colby, a children’s author and screenwriter, said: “In the initial plan that went out for public consultation, self-build plots were going to be offered on any sites of 20+ homes at the rate of five per cent.

“Since the consultation, Harrogate council has amended the draft plan to only allocate self-build plots on pieces on sites of 500+."

Harrogate Affordable Homes Community Land Trust says the council has a legal duty to provide self-build plots for people on the self-build registry.

Rebecca said: “While many people view self-build homes as Grand Design properties, they are actually a way to provide much-needed affordable housing.

“There are many other self-build companies out there now also, and two bedroom homes can be purchased for less than £50K.

"The great idea of a self-build home is that it's usually a better quality home, at least 30% cheaper as you are cutting out the middleman and their profit margin, and under current HMRC rules you can reclaim the VAT that you've spent on the home, so potentially another 20%."

But Coun Rebecca Burnett, cabinet member with responsibility for planning, said there were good reasons why the council had decided to change the targets for self-build homes.

She said: “We changed the threshold in response to concerns raised during the consultation on the draft Local Plan about the practicalities of delivering single self-build plots on smaller sites.

“But this will not prevent applications for self-build plots coming forward on smaller sites.

“In fact, we anticipate there will be sufficient capacity for self-builders with single plots, plots on larger sites and on the edge of settlements all being available. We will monitor the demand, as well as the number of suitable permissions granted, to make sure we meet our legal duties to support self-builders.”

But Harrogate Affordable Homes Trust are now concerned that the council may not meet their legal requirements.

They say these larger sites won’t be developed until well after the set time period, which may affect the Government’s approval or not, as the case may be, of Harrogate’s new Local Plan.