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New Forest District Council deputy leader Cllr Jill Cleary defends its affordable housing delivery after critical Liberal Democrat research

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NEW Forest District Council’s Conservative housing chief has defended its record on affordable homes after claims by the Liberal Democrats it was failing to hit targets.

Cllr Jill Cleary, who is the cabinet member for housing as well as deputy leader, responded to figures highlighted by the opposition Lib Dem group.

They pointed to a keystone planning document pledging 361 homes a year – but claimed just 519 affordable homes have been provided since 2016/17.

NFDC housing boss Cllr Jill Cleary
NFDC housing boss Cllr Jill Cleary

As reported by the A&T, the Tory administration also promised in 2018 to provide 600 council homes by 2026.

But Lib Dem spokesperson Cllr Jack Davies said: “Too many young people and local families are being forced out of the New Forest because rents are sky high and house prices are impossible to afford.

“Their target of 600 by 2026 is being designed to be met – rather than the aim being to build the homes we need.

“The Conservative party, who take millions each year from retirement developers, don’t want to address the issue. The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, are listening to local people and we are determined to solve the New Forest Housing crisis once and for all.

“We can do that by getting tougher on developers who try to wriggle out of their affordable housing commitments and by directly building 400 affordable homes per year funded through the Public Works Loans Board.”

His party’s research highlighted NFDC’s Local Plan, a set of keystone planning policies which sets out housing targets between 2016 and 2036.

Lib Dem Cllr Jack Davies
Lib Dem Cllr Jack Davies

It contains a target of 361 homes in total per year – but with 519 built so far, that annual figure currently stands at nearly 104.

Cllr Cleary pointed out development land within the district was “both limited and very highly valued” which made the delivery of subsidised affordable housing “challenging”.

The situation was complicated by the introduction of nitrate neutrality targets, she said, but the council was working with housing associations to fund new sites.

It had also made public appeals for land, clamped down on empty homes and had the target of delivering 600 council-owned homes by 2026.

She told the A&T: “We are deeply committed to providing affordable housing and have worked hard to explore every opportunity to create more affordable housing, providing 235 new affordable homes and we are currently working on plans for another 158.”

Cllr Cleary went on: “In a housing market that is so uneven across the country, the challenges we face are not unique to the New Forest.

“We will continue to work with partners and landowners looking at all options to create further opportunities and I know that the council’s housing development team will leave no stone unturned in pursuing this objective.”

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