The Wokingham Paper

Plan to buy Peach Place homes meets opposition

Peach Place
An artist's impression of what Peach Place will look like when completed

A DECISION to change the nature of housing in Peach Place was approved by the Executive but called in by the Liberal Democrats.

At last Thursday’s Executive, it was resolved to set aside 22 of the planned 26 homes for one of the council’s housing companies to rent out to key workers at 80% of market rental rates. Previously, all 26 of the homes had been destined for the open market.

The scheme is a mixture of four three-bed townhouses, 15 two-bed apartments, three one-bed apartments and four existing flats.

It is the apartments that the council would pass on to its housing companies and be made available to public and private sector employees deemed to provide an essential service, such as, teachers, health authority staff, police officers, firefighters, social service employees, care and nursery workers.

The council said that funding would come from Section 106 agreements for affordable housing.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Julian McGhee-Sumner, executive member for health and wellbeing, said: “Good quality, affordable housing is a key priority for the council.

“Over the next two years, the council is anticipating over 750 new affordable homes to be completed across the borough.

“It is vital for residents’ health and wellbeing, education and employment as well as supporting the growth of the local economy.”

But the Liberal Democrats have objected to the plans, using their powers to ‘call in’ a decision – subjecting it to more scrutiny – as they feel that it contravenes the council’s constitution in that “the action being proposed is not proportionate to the desired outcome”, but because of commercial sensitivity the full reasons were submitted to the council in a confidential document.

This lack of openness has also been criticised by the Liberal Democrats.

The call-in notice adds: “We are able to say that although in principle we support the provision of affordable housing in Peach Place, we do not believe that the financial details of the scheme demonstrate acceptable or proportionate use of Section 106 sums.”

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