To consider the attached progress report on phases 3 and 4 and the approach to site selection of phase 5 of the Council Housebuilding Programme.
The Service Manager (Housing Management & Home Ownership) reported on the progress made across phases 3 and 4 of the Housebuilding programme that had either been completed, were on-site and were currently being procured, as well as its approach to phase 5. Future housing delivery within phase 4 stood at 84 units up to 2021/22, subject to the necessary planning consents. The Council’s retained consultant (Metaplan) was reviewing two additional sites. One was a partnership arrangement with St John the Baptist Church, Epping, that comprised 9-10 residential units for key workers and a community building, subject to planning consent. The other was an opportunity to purchase some land at below market value in Waltham Abbey to provide up to 10 affordable units, subject to planning consent.
Phases 1 to 4 had largely been located on garage sites where there had been anti-social behaviour and they were not economically viable to continue with. There were also some other large garage sites that Housing would be looking at. In phase 5, a different approach was being taken in terms of what local members and local residents wanted. This would include additional environmental options and how the area could be improved for the community, such as planting schemes, or how to reconfigure parking to benefit the residents. The Council was looking to adopt the ‘Passivhaus’ standard, ‘Fabric First’ as a minimum, to make them as efficient as possible, for example by installing heat pumps. A further report would go to Cabinet in December 2020 on how the Council would be using housing receipts. These sites would be presented at the next Cabinet to recommend progressing to full planning and the allocation of capital funding. Housing would continue to work with Finance to develop a more robust finance reporting system especially around cashflow.
Councillor R Bassett was very impressed with the number of new houses being built and the Council was one of the few councils building council house. Would target dates be impacted by social distancing at work and would Housing be invoking late work penalties? The Service Manager replied that the Queens Road, Buckhurst Hill, site was some 8 – 10 weeks behind schedule but was not going to add a late penalty. She continued that with the other phase 4 works, the Council was at the stage when the contracts were being finalised as the pandemic started, which had not impacted on the contracts.
Councillor R Morgan was pleased local residents and the parish council would be consulted because Matching had a garage site.
Councillor S Murray said he did not disagree with the Chairman’s comments, but the Council’s housebuilding programme barely scratched the surface and did not really reflect the need for social housing in the District. There had been 13,000 local authority housing units when he had started at the Council. The right to buy was a positive aspect, but the Council was desperately short of housing stock. He welcomed the community consultative approach to phase 5 and would have welcomed this approach of a wider range of issues at the Council. There had been a number of projects in Loughton that had been not been consulted on like this, but he approved of Housing’s different consultative approach for phase 5.
Councillor S Heap thought Housing’s approach taken thus far was very good and although increased design costs were anticipated by adopting the ‘Passivhaus’ standard building standard, there would be long-term savings.
(1) That the contents of this progress report on phases 3 and 4 and the approach to site selection of phase 5, of the Council Housebuilding Programme be noted.