Affordable housing ‘not viable’ at council’s Marketfield Way development

Impression of the flats, viewed from Redhill High street

It remains “not viable” to include any affordable housing in Reigate & Banstead Borough Council’s development of 150 flats in Marketfield Way, Redhill, councillors have been told.

However, they also heard that the council is ahead of its target for affordable housing across the borough as a whole.

The matter came up at the full council meeting on 2 December, when Green councillor Stephen McKenna raised the latest question from his party about affordable housing at the cinema-shops-flats project, which is currently under construction.

Planning rules typically require developers of large schemes to include affordable housing, but subject to economic viability.

Cllr McKenna said in a written question: “The council’s flagship mixed residential and commercial scheme at Marketfield Way in the town centre includes 150 luxury flats with concierge service, gym and other features all pre-sold to private rented specialist Kookie, with no social housing at all, on this publicly owned site.”

Noting the forward sale to Kookie, a £2m grant from Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership towards the project, and the fact that the council would be left with a lot of “high value” retail/leisure space in the centre of Redhill, Cllr McKenna asked:

“Can the council advise us of the impact of all this good news on viability of the scheme in terms of surplus over and above the normal developers return (usually 15% profit on cost) and what this would equate to in affordable housing units if we were considering the scheme today?”

Giving his response, Conservative councillor Richard Biggs, executive member for planning policy and place delivery, said: “It was unfortunately not viable to provide affordable homes as part of this scheme, which was demonstrated through the planning application process.

“Indeed while I agree that it is very good news that the Council has entered into a pre-sale agreement with Kookie to purchase the residential units and we have secured external grant funding, unfortunately it still remains not viable for us to deliver affordable homes as part of this particular scheme.”

“However, it is also important to note that the fundamental driver for our Marketfield Way scheme was always about placemaking, providing an evening economy and helping to regenerate the town centre.

“Marketfield Way is helping the council to deliver another of our key priorities which is to help revitalise our town centres and in Redhill it contributes to realising our vision to make the town the cultural and leisure hub within our Borough.

“For the reasons that I have explained while it is not possible to provide affordable homes on the Marketfield Way site, this council is actively developing our own land holdings to provide housing and we are delivering a minimum of 30% affordable homes, in line with our five year plan’s commitment.”

Cllr Biggs also said that the council was currently ahead of its target to deliver 1,500 affordable homes in the borough between 2012 and 2027, with 918 having already been completed.

The lack of affordable housing at Marketfield Way has been raised by the Greens on a number of occasions over recent years, including by Cllr Jonathan Essex who also raised it at an overview and scrutiny committee on 21 October.

Full written question and answer

Question from Cllr Stephen McKenna (Green, Redhill E), asked on his behalf by Cllr Ruth Ritter (Green, Earlswood & Whitebushes):

“At a time when the council is failing to deliver a decent amount of social housing to those of our residents in need, isn’t it right that we scrutinise ever more carefully the decisions this council has made on housing.

“The council’s flagship mixed residential and commercial scheme at Marketfield Way in the town centre includes 150 luxury flats with concierge service, gym and other features all pre-sold to private rented specialist Kookie, with no social housing at all, on this publicly owned site.

“Taking into account this forward sale, plus the fact the council is left with a lot of high value retail/leisure space in the town centre, and most importantly subsidy to the council of £2m grant from Coast to Capital LEP can the Council advise us of the impact of all this good news on viability of the scheme in terms of surplus over and above the normal developers return (usually 15% profit on cost) and what this would equate to in affordable housing units if we were considering the scheme today?”

Response by Cllr Richard Biggs (Con, Horley W and Sidlow), executive member for planning policy and place delivery:

“As you will know the Reigate and Banstead 5 Year Plan provides a clear commitment that this council will secure the delivery of homes that can be afforded by local people and which provide a wider choice of tenure, type and size.

“I am pleased to say we are making good progress in helping to bring forward new homes within our Borough and it is not correct to state that the council is failing to deliver a decent amount of social housing.

“Our Core Strategy, which had cross party support when reviewed in 2019, sets out that we will deliver 1,500 new affordable homes between 2012 and 2027, which equates to 100 additional homes per year.

“In the nine years since the publication of the Core Strategy 918 new affordable homes have been delivered in our Borough, so in fact, we are not failing, we are currently exceeding the target that was agreed.

“In relation to Marketfield Way, it was unfortunately not viable to provide affordable homes as part of this scheme, which was demonstrated through the planning application process.

“Indeed while I agree that it is very good news that the Council has entered into a pre-sale agreement with Kookie to purchase the residential units and we have secured external grant funding, unfortunately it still remains not viable for us to deliver affordable homes as part of this particular scheme.

“However, it is also important to note that the fundamental driver for our Marketfield Way scheme was always about placemaking, providing an evening economy and helping to regenerate the town centre.

“Marketfield Way is helping the council to deliver another of our key priorities which is to help revitalise our town centres and in Redhill it contributes to realising our vision to make the town the cultural and leisure hub within our Borough.

“For the reasons that I have explained while it is not possible to provide affordable homes on the Marketfield Way site, this council is actively developing our own land holdings to provide housing and we are delivering a minimum of 30% affordable homes, in line with our five year plan’s commitment.

“We have already delivered housing on some of our own sites and are working towards delivering a mix of tenures and opportunities on other sites.

“Already this year we have completed a 25 unit scheme in Tadworth. Of the 25 homes built by the council, 11 houses are for shared ownership through Raven Homes and 14 houses and flats are being sold on the open market, with some new homeowners eligible for the Help to Buy Scheme to discount the cost.

“This year we will also complete 32 one and two bedroom flats at Cromwell Road in Redhill, many of which we anticipate will be available to rent to local people on the housing register at below market rent.

“In addition, we have commenced work on four one-bedroom bungalows in Lee Street, Horley to help homeless single people.

“The council will continue using our own assets to bring forward new affordable homes, and we will work with our partners, such as Registered Providers and developers to bring forward a mix of homes that meet local needs.”

Impression of the scheme viewed from Marketfield Way – the new flats are at left

News from Twitter