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Calls for rethink after rule changes put affordable home provision at risk

Changes to planning laws which could lower the number of affordable homes built in Cornwall by a third have been criticised by planning leaders at Cornwall Council.

The Government announced a number of changes to planning laws on Friday, including a proposal to remove the need for affordable housing on developments of up to 50 homes.

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Initial analysis suggests that the raising of the affordable housing threshold to 50 dwellings is likely to lead to a reduction of affordable housing provision by a third per year based on past delivery patterns. 

This will predominantly affect urban areas in Cornwall, and in particular lower income areas with high housing need.  The timing of this is also likely to coincide with economic challenges in these areas.

Cllr Tim Dwelly, portfolio holder for planning and economy, said:  “It was bad enough when the Government changed the rules to allow developers not to include affordable homes on sites of up to 10. That created real misery in many Cornish villages.

“Now they have made the get-out rule five times that. The timing is almost unthinkable as Cornwall faces a winter of job losses. As many as one in four could be out of work here after furlough ends this autumn.

“The new rule abolishes the 'section 106' rules which typically require at least a third of homes on a new development to be affordable. In the small print the threshold of 10 homes was changed to 50.

“This really matters because more than half of all affordable homes in Cornwall, around 1,000 each year, are funded this way.

“In urban areas a green light will be given to developers to avoid sites over 50 so they don't have to provide affordable homes.”

Cllr Andrew Mitchell, portfolio holder for homes, said:  “This is a real blow for the delivery of affordable homes for Cornwall, and will hit those most in need of support in today’s housing market.

“Due to the nature of house building in this part of the world, we see many ‘fill in’ developments of a few dozen homes, so we will be disproportionately affected by this unexpected change of policy.

“Cornwall Council has been a leading authority in providing affordable homes for our residents in recent years, and to see our ability to continue to do so hit so harshly out of the blue is incredibly frustrating.”