The historic town of Lewes is no place to be if you are looking for somewhere to live and are not rich.
A little two bedroomed house will cost you at least quarter of a million to buy or at least £200 per week to rent. So it is no wonder that the town has over 400 households on the council house waiting list – the largest proportion of the population of any of the towns in the district. Many of them are people whose families have been in the town for generations.
There is little chance of the council or housing associations building homes in the town. But there is a development of 400 homes proposed in the North Street area by developers Santon. Current rules allow planners to say that 40% of all lettings must be affordable housing. Unsurprisingly Santon wants less than this. Plans suggest they want to limit the affordable homes to 30, or at most 35% – perhaps only 120 homes.
And it gets worse. Instead of using all this 30-35% to house people on the housing waiting list Santon wants to use a percentage of these places to provide care for older people. Perhaps they think that largely housebound pensioners would be less threatening to people who will buy the other homes than “council house tenants”.
If they get their way then there would be hardly any homes for people on the waiting list. Surely Lewes District Council would not allow this? But there is a big conflict of interest. The council is desperate for money and owns 40% of the site that Santon wants to develop on. It would be very wrong to cut a deal to get top dollar for the site in return for letting Santons have their way. Let’s hope they do the right thing.