A debate on whether, and how, a Herefordshire village site should be developed for affordable housing has thrown up the wider challenges of addressing the “extreme shortfall” of such housing in the county.
Herefordshire Council voted in July to begin design work for 20 homes at the former Holme Lacy School site, one of several it owns and plans to develop for affordable housing over the coming years.
But any such redevelopment must take into account local provision of health, transport and other infrastructure, councillors on the general scrutiny committee urged this week.
They also called for the existing Holme Lacy school building to be “considered as a community asset to be used by and benefit the local community” within any development.
The council has left open the option of selling such sites to developers instead, to raise money to build affordable housing elsewhere. But such moves should require developers to ensure what gets built takes full account of local needs and wishes, the committee also urged.
Members of the public submitted 10 questions to councillors on the Home Lacy plan and put further questions in person at the scrutiny committee meeting. One, Mrs Stubbings, said the Holme Lacy site was a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to deliver rural affordable housing in the county along with improvements in infrastructure.
“If the council’s ‘pipeline’ of sites does not include other sites in the rural housing market area, how will the council assist local people who can’t afford market prices?” she asked.
Cabinet member for housing Coun Ange Tyler replied: “We can’t deliver all those in our pipeline of development so we have to look at other options.”
What the council is proposing “are not homes for social housing – they are for people to get on the housing market”, she added. “There would be a planning condition to specify that those in housing need with a local connection.”
Council programme manager Nigel Thomas added: “Open-market sale is an option for Holme Lacy but we are still at early stages.”
Coun Louis Stark suggested using the school building to “give something back”, while Coun William Wilding said the site “should have 10 houses and a medical centre next to it – that’s what local people want to see”.
Cabinet member for planning Coun Liz Harvey replied: “Sustainability, viability and local infrastructure will all form part of a rigorous process of consultation with the community.”