Decision due on affordable homes at 200-property Battle site

The final decision on removing affordable homes from a council-backed housing development is set to be made by Rother planners this week.
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On Thursday (February 15), Rother District Council’s planning committee is due to consider an application seeking to vary conditions previously attached to the Blackfriars development – a Rother DC Housing Company scheme which is set to see 200 homes built to the east of Battle.

The main change proposed is the removal of affordable housing, with planning committee members set to decide whether the scheme can go ahead without this element.

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The scheme had initially been expected to include 130 new affordable homes. But, as previously reported in November, the housing company says this is no longer possible due to delays and rising costs.

How Blackfriars could lookHow Blackfriars could look
How Blackfriars could look

In a report to cabinet members at the time, officers described the removal of affordable housing as the ‘best worst-case scenario’ and warned the project would remain at financial risk even as a 100 per cent market housing scheme.

The position reached is partly because the project is being delivered through the Rother DC Housing Company. While wholly-owned by the council, the way such a company functions means the scheme must at the very least break even. Not doing so could risk the loss of business loans needed for the scheme to proceed, cabinet members were told.

If the removal of the affordable homes is agreed, the council intends to build in a ‘review mechanism’, which would leave the door open to such properties being brought back at a later date.

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The application also seeks a number of other changes to the scheme. These include changes to the types of properties to be built out, with previously-approved maisonettes and flats to be replaced with more houses. This will not translate into any change to the overall number of homes, however.

Planning committee members will also be asked to approve the removal of Passivhaus and earth-sheltered homes — both types of properties with very high levels of energy-efficiency — from the development proposals.

A report to the committee says the removal of these units will come alongside overall energy efficiency improvements to properties across the site.

The other changes are more minor, amounting to general alterations to the layout of the site.

For further information see application reference RR/2023/1487/P on the Rother District Council website.

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