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Difficult conditions lead to reduction in affordable housing

Looking down to the development site in Wooler.
Looking down to the development site in Wooler.

‘Some is better than none’ won the day as councillors agreed to allow a reduction in the number of affordable homes as part of a proposed development in Wooler.

The outline application for 81 homes and 12 self-catering lodges, on land north of Weetwood Road, was originally approved by committee in November 2013, subject to a section 106 legal agreement to deliver 30 per cent affordable homes.

However, the scheme went before Tuesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s planning and performance committee as the applicant, Gerald Dickinson, was seeking to reduce the contribution to 15 per cent, or 12 properties.

The planning officer recommended approving this reduction, not least because 15 per cent is the accepted benchmark in the council’s emerging core strategy.

Coun Tony Reid wanted reassurance that the landowner wasn’t ‘trying it on’.

The county council’s affordable housing officer explained that they had been involved in trying to help the applicant attract a developer to take the project on.

“In our view, this is an appropriate amount of housing and an appropriate decision for the committee to make,” he said. “We don’t do it lightly, but we have looked at it very closely.”

The council’s senior development and delivery manager, Mark Ketley, explained that it was a volatile market at the moment, adding: “It’s better to get some affordable units than no affordable units.”