A £2.2m project to build modern prefabricated homes for temporary accommodation in Newhaven has been signed off by council leaders.
Lewes District Council says the plans, which were approved by cabinet members on Monday (October 29), aim to address a shortage of temporary accommodation in the district.
If the proposal secures planning permission, at least 12 homes are expected to be installed on an as-yet undisclosed site in Newhaven after being built off-site by Boutique Modern – a specialist modular building company based in the same town.
During the meeting council leader Andy Smith (Con. – East Saltdean and Telscombe Cliffs), praised the project as an example of ‘cross-party working’.
He said: “[Liberal Democrat group leader] Sarah Osborne came to the full council budget meeting in February 2017 and asked for money to explore the idea and we all agreed there was great potential in our district to deal with this issue head-on.
“In February 2018 another consultation from Sarah started the ball rolling and it has been a good example of cross-party working.
“There is a budget but there is also a potential to use modular building to have this up and running much quicker than an ordinary building.”
While Cllr Osborne (Lib Dem. – Plumpton, Streat, East Chiltington and St John Without) was not present during this part of the meeting, she welcomed the plans in a prepared statement.
She said: “Having first secured the funding for a feasibility study into housing options when emergency accommodation is needed and then the £2.2m for these new homes, I am delighted that we are now close to the culmination of this vital piece of work.
“Local people should receive local housing support, not be sent miles away from their friends, family, schools and employment, it makes no sense at all.”
Cabinet members also agreed to waive the council’s usual procurement rules, awarding the contract directly to Boutique Modern rather than seeking bidders from elsewhere in the country.
The council says this decision was both due the specialist nature of the project and the high cost of a shortage in temporary accommodation. A council spokesman the cost of renting temporary accommodation had run up more than £72,500 of unrecoverable expenses in April, May and June alone.
Councillor Ron Maskell, cabinet member for housing, said: “We have a responsibility to provide accommodation for those households who are homeless, but currently there is very little temporary accommodation that we can use in the district. So consequently, and at significant cost we often have to use B&Bs and private sector housing in other neighbouring local authority areas.
“I’m really excited by this modern and highly efficient accommodation.
“We can get the temporary housing built and in place quickly, which is great news for families in need of a home and for the new jobs created as a direct result of working with a local manufacturer.”
Details of the proposed site are expected to be revealed ahead of a public consultation process, which is expected to take place later this year.
The proposals will also need to secure planning permission before any work begins on site. The council says the process is expected to follow on from a similar application in Peacehaven.
The actual construction process is expected to be relatively quick, with Boutique Modern’s website saying an average prefabricated home takes around eight to ten days to install.