Long time readers of the Brownhills Blog may well remember my article about the new social housing development, slated to replace the now demolished maisonettes on the corner of Ogley Road and High Street, Brownhills. Planned to provide high-quality housing in place of the unloved former tenements, planning permission was last year granted for the 73 new dwellings, with construction expected to start this year. The Design and Access statement submitted to Walsall Planning stated at the time:
“‘The proposals are being developed by local housing association Walsall Housing Group working in partnership with Walsall Council.”
“The new development proposals are for the provision of 73 new build affordable dwellings. They will comprise 57 No. 2B3P (2 bedroom, 3 person) flats, 4 No. 2B3P (2 bedroom, 3 person) wheelchair flats, 6No. 3B5P (3 bed, 5 person) houses, 2 No. 4B6P (4 bedroom, 6 person) houses, 2 No. 4B7P (4 bedroom, 7 person) houses and 2 No. 5B7P (5 bedroom, 7 person) houses.”
“All of the dwellings are to be affordable rented accommodation for general needs provision.”
“The mix of dwellings has been discussed and agreed with Walsall Council in advance of the application being lodged and the scheme is to be submitted to the Homes and Communities Agency with regard to achieving capital funding in the 2008/2011 bidding round.”
Passing the now cleared and fenced site today, I noticed a further planning application site notice had gone up on a lamp post in the access way in front of the plot. It detailed planning application ref. 10/0265/FL which relishes in such an unwieldy title that I’ll not repeat here. In essence, Walsall Housing Group want condition 20 of the original planning approval removed – this condition expressly stipulated that:
“The development shall be occupied, managed and retained as 100% social rent tenure unless otherwise agreed in writing.”
According to the Design and Access Statement supplied with the new application, WHG now wants to change the nature of a significant quantity of the new dwellings, 12 will now be for shared ownership and 12 will be for outright sale, leaving the remaining 49 for social rent as originally planned. They state that the reason for this change is that the Homes and Communities Agency now require, as a condition of funding, that any development must be of mixed tenure.
I don’t know enough about this kind of thing to be able to judge if the change is justified, but I do know that it will now reduce the rental capacity of what was expected to be a wholly social development by nearly a third. Considering the community has been led to believe that they’re going to get 73 newbuild WHG homes for rent, this seems a bit of a blow.
Many of the residents of Humphries House will be concerned about the change in nature of this development, as many seem to be under the impression that they will be offered accommodation in the new development in order to facilitate the crumbling tower block’s eventual demolition. I know this rumour didn’t start with WHG, and indeed, I consider that scenario to be very unlikely, but it leads one to wonder yet again, if WHG were more upfront about their intentions for Brownhills, would there be so much rumour and sigh?
Perhaps the collective hive-mind of the housing association is currently focussed on the prospective construction of their new 6.5 million pound headquarters at the overhyped Gigaport development in Walsall. After all, if they don’t move there, the council will have few takers for their developmental white elephant…