When news happens, text KENEWS and your photos and videos to 80360. Or contact us by email or phone.
Comment: Getting planning decisions right requires some compromise
GETTING planning decisions right is no easy task. When it comes to controversial housing developments, local authorities are often damned if they approve and damned if they reject.
In South Lakeland, the planning arguments have become extremely heated as a result of SLDC’s much-criticised Land Allocations strategy, aimed at providing 6,000 new homes throughout the district by 2025.
A major problem is you cannot build so many houses without putting great pressure on local infrastructure and services. Recognition of this led to the suspension of the planning inquiry into South Lakeland’s housing and commercial development strategy last year, with government inspector Simon Berkeley insisting such issues needed to be addressed before the deliberations could continue.
However, another significant problem for developers in South Lakeland is the council’s insistence that up to 35 per cent of any new houses should be ‘affordable’ so they can be occupied by lower paid workers and their families.
Few would argue with the need for developments to provide community benefits, but the infrastructure and affordable housing issues are proving a particular headache for house-builders, at least judging by the comments made by one developer this week. Kendal-based Oakmere Homes warns that ‘enhanced requests’ by SLDC are in danger of jeopardising new homes projects throughout the district. The company spoke out after planning officials declared their opposition to its application for an estate of 148 houses close to Oxenholme Road, claiming the scheme failed to offer sufficient affordable housing. Concerns were also raised over the infrastructure issues.
However, Oakmere raises an extremely important point when it warns that local authority demands on such matters could impact on the viability of developments.
Inevitably, providing cheaper homes and such facilities as play and education areas takes money and it does not need a maths genius to work out that if these costs are too high developments will be not worth starting. This is in nobody’s interests.
At the end of the day, if South Lakeland is to get its 6,000 new homes, flexibility and compromise has to be the key.