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New Forest affordable homes policy watered down by government inspectors

New Forest District Council's Appletree Court HQ in Lyndhurst
New Forest District Council's Appletree Court HQ in Lyndhurst

PROPOSED rules for the number of affordable homes have been watered down in draft planning policy governing the development of 10,500 houses outside the New Forest National Park.

The proportion of cheaper properties has been switched from being a tight requirement to a looser target by two government inspectors assessing New Forest District Council’s draft Local Plan, which runs until 2036.

Overall they opted to keep the affordable housing proportions for larger developments the same: 35% in Totton and the Waterside and 50% elsewhere.

However, they also amended rules to allow for more “flexibility” in the mix of tenure types.

The inspectors suggested the change could help maximise the number of affordable homes in developments. But they added that caveats of development viability will continue to apply, so the full target will not be achieved in some instances.

The Local Plan contains fundamental planning rules for the area and gives the go-ahead in principle to build on swathes of green belt land.

NFDC’s draft version, which underwent public examination by two government inspectors, claimed building 10,500 homes was an appropriate number to keep up with demand.

The two inspectors concluded 10,420 homes was acceptable. However, they added that in its current form the Local Plan is not passable, and to make it so the council must make minor changes – known as “main modifications”.

Responding, Cllr Edward Heron, NFDC’s deputy leader and cabinet member for planning and infrastructure, said: “We are very pleased that the Local Plan has passed this significant milestone, and I would like to thank the inspectors and everyone who has participated in the process.

“The Local Plan is the council’s vision and strategy for the future of this area. We have worked hard to strike the right balance between protecting our sensitive environment and the character of our area, while also providing the new homes, jobs and facilities that our communities need.”

Fellow cabinet member Cllr Michael Harris – who holds the brief for economic development – confessed at a Brockenhurst Parish Council meeting that he saw 10,420 as a “low number”.

NFDC now has six weeks to come up with the appropriate amendments to its Local Plan, which it will then have to put out for public consultation which will likely start just before Christmas.

The inspectors will consider the feedback and issue a final written report before the new Local Plan can be formally adopted around spring next year.

More information is available at www.newforest.gov.uk/article/18663/Local-Plan-Examination.

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