Former council leader defends plan to build low-cost homes in Brighton

Posted On 17 Nov 2018 at 8:57 pm

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.”

  1. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    I have long thought that the huge area given to automobile sales yards in South Portslade would be better used for housing.

  2. Rolivan Reply

    Cllr Morgan could have built affordable homes at Kings House instead he said the council are not Developers and has let some others make a lot of money and how many affordable homes will be built not 40% of the total I bet.

  3. Anne Glow Reply

    I would not call any of these homes affordable we need more social housing which is affordable to those that are local and need permanent homes. Never on Whitehawk Hill

    • Rolivan Reply

      Where did you get the name Whitehawk Hill from as I thought it was in an entirely different place at the top of Manor Hill?

  4. Cllr Warren Morgan Reply

    No. The sale of Kings House – agreed under the previous Green Administration – was to raise the funds needed to refit Hove Town Hall in order to cut running costs, provide space to rent to ESCU/CAB and others for a revenue stream and invest in other council services to prevent cuts. We got a better deal and a quicker receipt than the Greens anticipated and we were able to protect more services and jobs as a result. We have built more council housing than any council administration in 30 years – Kings House was never an option for low cost housing and the council had to get maximum value from it for residents.

    • Robert Jackson Reply

      I love that you add “Cllr”, like the way Seymour Skinner always insisted he was referred to as “Principal” and Ben Kingsley insists on being “Sir”.

      Wozza Morgs too casual?

    • Rolivan Reply

      Yet the Council own hundreds of acres of farmland which bring in a very small income after agents fees.Why not sell off that rather than a Prime piece of real estate. You told me the Council are not Developers and yet what do you call a £120m joint venture with Hyde?
      Why could Kings House not have been developed for Social Housing of the over 2000 properties in the Council Portfolio are you saying none of them are Prime Real Estate Locations?

    • Rolivan Reply

      If Kings House was worth £25m why did you not try and sell a 50% share to Hyde and do a joint venture with them or someone else?

  5. Spara Pennygov Reply

    I’m interested in unpicking “affordable rents”. What Mr Morgan suggests is affordable for those on the lowest incomes just isn’t. I believe in the business plan it says they will be linked to inflation, which as we know has been outstripping wages.

    1 Bedroom Flat BHCC £69.50 per week
    1 Bedroom Flat in proposed development £147.66 (this is appalling) Rent 113% higher than local council rents..
    2 bedroom Flat BHCC £80.14 per week 2 bed in proposed development £177.19

    Affordable if you earn less than £300 a week?

  6. Tracey Hill Reply

    If you’re comparing rents, what’s the average weekly rent in the private sector for a one-bed flat?

  7. Billy Reply

    I’m not sure why people are moaning about this development. If you rent in the private sector then you’ll pay something like £800 a month for a modest/tatty one bed flat in Brighton and Hove, so that’s about £200 a week.
    These sorts of prices are indeed a nightmare for anyone on a low income and the unaffordable rents lead to high turnover of tenants and the social issues that brings. People are forced to double up, just to share out the financial load, so that’s people sharing beds and sleeping on floors and sofas, and not through choice.
    The rent levels are determined by demand and supply and we should therefore welcome any new houses being built.
    The argument here is then: Is this the right plot of land to build new housing on? If the answer to that is yes, then the next discussion is about who gets to build the accommodation.
    Could, realistically, the council themselves build low cost accommodation to house the city’s low wage workers and the vulnerable in desperate need of a roof over their heads? How might that be financed and what would the rents then turn out to be?
    If you are on minimum wage you’ll know that you’re unlikely to take home more than £300 a week, and so the concept of affordable accommodation is no longer viable in Brighton and Hove. There’s the added problem of where landlords and agents won’t rent properties to people on low incomes.

  8. Richard Reply

    Warren Morgan states that the proposed development site ‘isn’t in the part of Whitehawk Hill that has special designation’, which is just factually incorrect, it lies right in the middle of the statutorily designated Local Nature Reserve (as well as statutory access land, Race Hill recreational common etc.). This proposal will damage the integrity of the reserve by effectively cutting it in half.

    • Rolivan Reply

      Could you or anyone please tell me where the name Whitehawk Hill for this proposed development originated from please?

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