Plans for more than 200 low-cost homes in Whitehawk have been defended by the former leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.
Councillor Warren Morgan, who represents the East Brighton ward, which includes Whitehawk, spoke out after the plans were criticised by fellow East Brighton Labour councillor Nancy Platts.
The homes are to be built by the joint venture between Hyde housing association and the council.
He said: “Without making any judgment on any application which may come before (the council Planning Committee), I’d like to offer my views on the joint venture, other housing schemes in East Brighton ward and the delivery of affordable housing overall.
“Meeting the council’s policy of 40 per cent affordable, as we did with the St Aubyns development in Rottingdean recently, is an admirable aim but it does not, in my view, deliver affordable housing to people in our communities who need them.
“Ten or 15 years ago, properties on offer at 80 per cent of market rates were truly affordable by most, which is why we adopted the policy.
“After over a decade of property price inflation far outstripping wage growth, 80 per cent is not, and in effect is just a subsidy to those for whom buying a property is already affordable.
“That’s why three years ago we set out on the joint venture with Hyde to deliver properties at 60 per cent of market rates, affordable to people on the National Living Wage by taking only around 40 per cent of their household income.
“It’s been one of the pioneering partnerships, offering a route to deliver large-scale supply of affordable housing that is so desperately needed in our city. It’s drawn interest and praise from people around the country.
“Any development on any site will draw objections, we all know that. But the recent Rottingdean scheme shows that the arguments for good housing, in areas where housing is wanted by local people, can win out.
“Whitehawk Hill was identified in the Local Plan as a site for potential development, a plan we voted for. It’s a difficult site but so are most of the others. It isn’t in the part of Whitehawk Hill that has special designation. Sites in Coldean and Portslade are not without challenges and likely opposition too.
“Over the past 18 months or so there have been three major new council housing projects handed over to tenants in East Brighton – at Robert Lodge, Kite Place and Hobby Place. All went ahead after significant and meaningful consultation with the local community via the housing team and the Due East Neighbourhood Council.
“Over a hundred new council homes delivered – it’s one of the things I’m most proud of and in a ward I’ve represented for 16 years – I wouldn’t have backed them if they were not needed or were vociferously opposed by the community.
“They certainly were not ‘foisted upon’ East Brighton residents. Whitehawk and Manor Farm have had no major private developments in my time representing the ward.
“We’ve ensured – with backing from the last Labour government – that there are the community infrastructure facilities needed for a thriving community in Whitehawk – a purpose-built new health centre with two GP surgeries and a pharmacy, three new adventure play areas, a major extension to the primary school, a children’s centre and nursery both rated outstanding by Ofsted, a new library, a new youth centre and more.
“It’s not perfect but it compares very well to new provision in many communities around the city – and as one of the more deprived areas it needs them.
“As I said at (the Planning Committee) in October, in my view the answer to lack of infrastructure provision like GPs is not to choke off any new housing in a community, but to deliver housing the community needs and therefore increase the demand on the CCG (clinical commissioning group) and others to provide the infrastructure that is already needed.
“As a council we have protected our Downland by supporting the establishment of a National Park, set limits on height and density of development and given communities what protection we can in a housing market where developers stand to make profit. But we’ve done far more than our predecessors to help people on low incomes get the affordable homes we need.
“The Hyde JV (joint venture) is about delivering those homes to local people priced out of the market, even at 80 per cent affordable under policy. It is a not-for-profit partnership venture not a private developer making profit.
“It’s been three years in the making – frustratingly slow given the urgent need – but has been voted through. I couldn’t have asked colleagues to support a scheme that asked their communities to make difficult choices on sites for development if I opposed them in my ward too. I’ve been proud to represent Whitehawk and East Brighton in the city’s debate for the last 16 years and, along with Gill (Mitchell) and other ward colleagues over that time, I have always ensured their voice has been heard.
“I will judge the application with an open mind on its merits if it comes to (the Planning Committee) before May, but I support the Hyde JV we have spent so long developing, the Local Plan we worked so hard to win agreement for and the urgent need to deliver homes that are truly affordable, not just policy compliant.
“I’m proud of the hundreds of new council homes the council has delivered since 2015 but we always needed to do more.
“The thousand new homes promised by the Hyde JV will be a game-changer in the supply of affordable housing in Brighton and Hove and we should not undermine it now.”