‘Too high’ affordable homes targets could scare developers away from Hartlepool

The entrance to the site of Valley Drive where there are plans for 110 new houses
The entrance to the site of Valley Drive where there are plans for 110 new houses

Higher affordable housing targets for Hartlepool could scare off developers from building in town.

That is the fear of planning councillors of a new recommended level of lower priced homes developers would be expected to provide in new schemes to win permission.

Since 2012, Hartlepool’s affordable housing target has been 89 new homes a year, equivalent to 27.5 per cent of the town’s overall housing need.

But factors such as the bedroom tax and an ageing population have seen the need increase to 144 affordable new homes a year out of 325 for the town, or 44 per cent.

That is according to the recent Hartlepool Strategic Housing Market Assessment.

The target is set to be included in new planning guidance which is being considered by Hartlepool Borough Council before being approved.

But the higher rate caused concern among councillors on the authority’s planning committee.

Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher said: “I think the bar is set too high. We are saying we are open for business as a local authority and are trying to attract people and developers into the town but I think if we have a higher rate, we potentially could have a problem.”

Coun Ray Martin-Wells agreed. He said: “Developers will just go to another authority who are more amenable to negotiating.

“I just think this is a barrier to taking Hartlepool forward.”

Andrew Carter, planning services manager, said affordable housing targets are always a negotiating point to achieve what developers can realistically provide.

He told the committee: “We have to accept we can’t ever meet that mythical 44 per cent in the same way we couldn’t reach 27.5 per cent before.

“We have to negotiate on a case by case basis with developers to reach a figure whatever that is.”
 The committee agreed to hear a more in-depth presentation by officers on the issue, scheduled for August 5, before deciding upon a final response.