Councillors backed a £70 million project to build more than 200 council homes and a neighbourhood hub at a meeting last night (Wednesday 17 November).
They called for low rents and a greater number of wheelchair-accessible homes on the site of former school buildings in Moulsecoomb.
In a fortnight’s time, another committee, made up of senior councillors, will be asked to sign off a budget of £2.1 million to finalise and submit a planning application for the project.
A report to Brighton and Hove City Council’s Housing Committee said that the masterplan incorporated feedback from local residents and community groups.
In addition to 211 homes, the project includes a new doctors’ surgery, pharmacy, library, youth centre and community café as well as adult learning classrooms and meeting rooms.
At Hove Town Hall last night, the Housing Committee was told that the council had secured £1.94 million from the government’s Brownfield Land Release funding scheme.
The money, from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, will be spent on transforming the four-and-a-half-acre site.
The council is also applying for a grant from Homes England, a government agency, for money from its Affordable Homes Programme – but the Moulsecoomb scheme could still face a financial shortfall.
Councillors were given a confidential report setting out the project’s finances in detail, including possible rent levels.
Labour councillor Gill Williams said: “When we arrive at what rent we are going to have to charge, could we explain that?
“And when we look at how many social rents are available in this development, (could we explain) how we come to that – and why can’t we provide more at social rents?
“It has been raised with me that apparently we’re supposed to supply 10 per cent of wheelchair-accessible homes and, as it looks now, it seems there are 15 (instead of 21).
“Are we looking towards providing 10 per cent of accessible homes?”
Rent levels remained undecided, Councillor Williams was told, but they would be set based on housing need and the scheme’s financial viability.
This would, in part, depend on the grant received from Homes England. More detail about rent levels would go into a future report to the committee.
Members were told that the total of 15 fully wheelchair-accessible homes planned for the project meant that it complied with council policies.
But the designs and floor plans would be reviewed during the detailed design stage to try to make more homes wheelchair-accessible.
Conservative councillor Mary Mears said that disabled groups had approached her about the number of wheelchair-accessible homes.
Councillor Mears said: “This is the council’s own development and so it does have the opportunity to look a bit wider.
“We have many people with disabilities. We need to ensure that we are fully prepared to have a fair amount of properties.”
The committee was told that site’s constraints, particularly the topography, made this more challenging, but officials would look at increasing the number of accessible homes.
Green councillor David Gibson, who co-chairs the Housing Committee, said that he was excited about the project which would be on a site west of Hodshrove Road and off Hodshrove Lane.
Councillor Gibson said: “It is so nice to see additional council houses moving and being developed at pace despite the pandemic. We are all working together to progress this.
“What’s so positive about this particular scheme for me is it is a big housing and regeneration scheme – and we are doing it as a council ourselves, not having to depend on someone else to do it.”
The council’s Policy and Resources Committee is due to decide whether to press ahead with the project at a meeting on Thursday 2 December.
The report to the Housing Committee said that if planning permission was granted by next June, enabling works could start on site in September and construction could start in May 2023.
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.