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The Royal Borough Observer
Royal Borough target 350 new homes a year

Richard Cutcher• Published 10 Aug 2012 16:30

THE council has set itself a target of permitting up to 350 new homes a year, despite there being around 1,000 empty properties in the Royal Borough.

The need for such targets was described as "wretched" by councillor Leo Walters, chairman of the planning and housing scrutiny panel, and another councillor warned large tower blocks may be built because of the borough's commitment to protect its Green Belt - 80% of the authority's land.

Planning officers drew up the target for the National Policy Planning Framework, but no consideration appears to have been given to the empty homes.

Speaking to The Observer, Cllr Walters said: "Nobody knows just how many empty homes there are in reality. We only know those which are registered for a discount [council tax], but what can we do about empty homes? We have used compulsory purchase powers in the past, but that can become quite messy."

Through the localisation of council tax benefit, which will come into effect in April next year, the Royal Borough is proposing to remove council tax exemption on 639 empty homes, giving a 50% discount instead. The measure is expected to bring in £223,000 a year.

The council will also introduce a 50% premium on the 354 properties which have been empty for more than two years, bringing in £278,000 annually.

Cllr Richard Kellaway, Royal Borough lead member for finance, said the above measures, as well as raising vital revenue to plug a £1m funding gap, could get the housing market moving.
He said: "Making sure these homes aren't empty is something we have been looking at for a while. It just so happens new legislation has given us the power to give people financial incentive to fill them."

Cllr David Burbage, leader of the Royal Borough, pledged Green Belt land would be off limits to developers, but Cllr Malcolm Beer, representing Old Windsor, believes that will leave planning officers no flexibility.

Cllr Beer said: "The message from the Government is build, build, build. If you are not going to use the Green Belt then you will have to start looking at tower blocks which would be more damaging."

The cabinet will receive a report outlining proposed "strategic site allocations" for new developments on Thursday, September 27.

Royal Borough target 350 new homes a year
Published 3 Aug 2012 12:30

THE Royal Borough has begun its search to find space for up to 350 new properties a year - while making good its promise to protect the Green Belt.

Councillor David Burbage, leader of the Royal Borough, made a high-profile pledge to protect the district's Green Belt last month, but pressure will now be put on town centres to find room for residential premises.

The council is preparing a public consultation for Autumn, in which residents and stakeholders will be asked their views on potential sites to target new development, including Spencer's Farm, in north Maidenhead.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, on Thursday (2/8), councillor Christine Bateson, lead member for planning, said: "We are confident we can deliver the minimum 290 dwellings, but we can go up to 350 without losing any Green Belt land.

"We are hoping our residents will see and understand that in the consultation."

The council is aware of more than 100 sites in the Green Belt which have been suggested for future housing development.

The consultation will also ask residents views on whether to add land to Ockwells Manor site, in Maidenhead, to the Green Belt to further protect it from developers and at the meeting in the Town Hall, in St Ives Road, councillor Simon Dudley said there is room in Maidenhead for more houses.

He said: "The population of cities around the world are expanding and there are several opportunities in Maidenhead to bring in more development to the town centre. I hope this will take the pressure off the Green Belt."

Simon Hurrell, the council's head of planning and property services, admitted that there had been a "drop-off" in applications for property development last year, but there does appear to be an element of catch-up now, suggesting there is the supply to meet the demand."