Delayed housing company report due soon

Friday, January 11th, 2019 8:45pm

By Niall Griffiths - Local Democracy Reporter

Plans to form a local housing company (LHC) in Monmouthshire will be brought before councillors five months later than expected.

Last June councillors tasked council officers to work on an ‘evidence-based’ proposal and present it by September but opposition councillors have been frustrated by delays.

Officers were focused on the £7 million acquisition of Caldicot’s CastleGate Business Park and working on existing strategic housing sites.

A motion from Labour group leader Councillor Dimitri Batrouni expressing “dismay and disappointment” with the Conservative administration will be debated on January 17.

But the economy and development select committee heard on Wednesday that the report would come before councillors in April.

Labour councillor Armand Watts described the LHC as an “economic no-brainer”, adding: “The more houses you build in the south of the county, where houses are inevitably going to be higher as they’re closer to Bristol, you’re going to get more revenue.”

But Cllr Watts remains unconvinced that the council has “woken up” to the impact of high rents in Monmouthshire, saying that 33 per cent of families in his ward are living in deprivation caused by “disproportionately high” rents.

“We need to get this moving, it seems that you’re dragging your heels,” he said.

Labour councillor Alan Davies also raised concerns about a lack of detail on how a LHC would be funded within the councils’ capital strategy assessment.

“With consultants telling us about the need for housing, I would see that as a priority as a council and I’m not seeing that at all,” he said.

But Conservative councillor Phil Murphy said “a lot of research” was being done, with meetings planned with Bristol City Council and other Welsh authorities to gain further insights into LHCs.

The cabinet member for resources also expressed frustration that the future of the 111-home housing development in Raglan was now in the hands of the Welsh Government.

Peter Walker Davies, chief officer for resources, said he was “not overly concerned” about giving extra time to the housing company proposals.

Mr Walker Davies added: “If we set a housing company up now, I wouldn’t have a pipeline to bring it through immediately.

“We need to balance our resources to make sure we get acquisitions through and make progress on our strategic sites.”

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