To consider the attached report.
The Committee agreed to bring forward agenda item 12 at the request of the Service Manager (Housing Management & Home Ownership).
The Service Manager (Housing Management & Home Ownership), D Fenton, reported on the progress of phases 2 to 4 of the Council’s housebuilding programme, for developments completed on-site and currently being procured. On phase 2 (Burton Road, Loughton - HR107), of the 51 properties, six units been delayed due to a gas supply problem but were completed and handed over on 19 March 2020. On phase 3 (Queens Road, North Weald - HR116) the original start had been delayed with the discovery of asbestos. The contractor was some four weeks behind schedule because of service utility delays, and there was also the potential for further delays caused by Covid-19 restrictions.
Phase 4.1 comprised 14 properties at five sites in Loughton and Ongar. The contractor had commenced works on 29 June 2020 at two Loughton sites, but would stagger starts at the other sites in August and September to comply with new working arrangements. The handover was forecast for June 2021. Phase 4.2 for 22 properties at seven sites in Buckhurst Hill, Loughton and Waltham Abbey had gone out to tender and a report was due to go to the next Council Housebuilding Cabinet Committee (CHBCC). Phase 4.3 for 21 properties at seven sites, one in Buckhurst Hill and six in Waltham Abbey, had gone out to tender. It was anticipated works would commence in November 2020 and complete between November 2021 and March 2022. In phase 4.4, properties at four sites in Loughton had undergone a detailed design review, which would potentially increase the affordable units by 12 to a total of 27.
In phase 5, a detailed review to identify several potential sites for future development was almost finished. However, a different approach would be taken by officers to include engagement and to work with local councillors to discuss and address any local issues that these development sites might have. It was anticipated that a Members Briefing would be organised to highlight this approach and present officers’ aspirations before the submission of planning applications. Once sufficiently progressed, a Feasibility Report would be presented to CHBCC for consent to proceed and progress to the planning application and delivery stage.
Councillor R Bassett asked about the large variation of over £1 million on phase 2. The Service Manager (Housing Management & Home Ownership) replied this was in connection to the fire issue and gas works. Previously, Housing’s approach on finance had been more to do with due diligent work that had been undertaken. Housing Development Manager, J Cosgrave, was the project manager, and they were confident that going forward financial steps had been put in place to ensure the financial forecast was accurate. The Council’s Housebuilding programme was a 30-year business plan and therefore, it was vital to understand the viability of schemes.
Councillor S Heap was enthused by the Housing officers’ new approach and future interaction with councillors, and that Housing was doing an excellent job on the Council housebuilding programme. The Service Manager (Housing Management & Home Ownership) replied that officers were looking at further sites that would be viable for more properties and were working with the Local Plan.
Councillor S Murray agreed with Councillor Heap about the new, exciting approach to be taken on phase 5, but would this engagement be with ward councillors and other councillors within a community? The Service Manager (Housing Management & Home Ownership) replied that engagement would initially be with ward councillors. Officers would be looking at communities to create places where people would want to live and be seeking Cabinet agreement on these sites. There would be collaboration going forward.
Councillor J Jennings remarked that Epping Forest was an expensive District to live in. There was a huge need for affordable housing and for more availability of Council housing, as private developers did not build affordable housing.
The Chairman was pleased to see the progress being made and that this Council was one of the few councils to have an active housebuilding programme.
That the contents of this Progress Report on Phases 2 to 4 of the Council Housebuilding Programme be noted.