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Council criticised over record on affordable homes in Weymouth

builder housing

Published at 11:36am 16th April 2018.

A council's record on finding sites for affordable homes has been lambasted by several councillors.

Some claimed Weymouth and Portland Borough Council had done little, or nothing, to help the situation over a period of years – before committee members rejected setting up a local working group.

The spirited Policy Development Committee debate saw resolution after resolution to tackle the local situation put forward – only to fail on each successive vote.

In the end a motion to urge the new Dorset unitary council to make housing a priority succeeded in getting a majority vote – including looking specifically at social housing, affordable homes and shared ownership. It was put forward by Cllr Ryan Hope.

Speaking after the meeting Cllr Hope said: “We need to send a clear message to the new unitary council that it needs a strong focus on housing, either on its own, or working with other housing providers…by not tying up our time now when we will soon cease to exist, we will probably achieve more in the long term.”

Cllr Ian Bruce claimed that if he had been given the undisclosed sum mentioned in a confidential report seen only by councillors he could produce at least thirty per cent more homes for the same money.

House being built

Commercial Housing Enabler Clyde Lambert said that the council had a number of choices if it wanted to help meet the need for affordable homes, but warned: “If you want to make a significant impact it would involve a high level of borrowing and a long pay-back period.”

The debate was sparked by a Labour motion to set up a ‘task and finish’ group to look at solutions to a lack of affordable housing and homes in Weymouth and Portland.

Cllr Paul Kimber said many people were worried but saw little action from any council: “We have stood back for too long…these issues go on and on. We have got to drill down on this,” he said.

But Cllr Mike Byatt urged the committee to take a wider view and work with neighbouring authorities: “It makes sense to do some joined up thinking. It’s not just an issue in Weymouth and Portland. There must be some benefit in looking beyond our boundaries.”

Cllr Ian Bruce said there was widespread frustration about the lack of action: “We were going to dip our toe in the water with a site on Portland and accelerate building.

“What has happened? Absolutely nothing,” he said.

He claimed that the council had also identified several sites across the borough where cheaper homes could be built by selling the land to developers; “But, again, it seems nothing has happened,” he said.

Housing spokesman Cllr Gill Taylor said the situation was not as bad as it was being portrayed. She said that there was a realistic hope of 42 affordable homes in the borough this year and up to 250 next year.

“We do have sites coming forward. There is a lot going on, although some are not classed as ‘affordable’ they will be quite cheap for the area.”

Making a final plea for the borough council to set up its own study and find solutions Cllr Mark Tewksbury said: “In a year’s time there will be a different council, but we’ve got to drive these things through.

“We have social landlords doing it but there’s still not enough homes in our borough. We need to push forward.”

The resolution is expected to go before Tuesday’s borough council management committee for further debate.

By Local Democracy Reporter - Trevor Bevins

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