Wealden District Council builds first new houses for 30 years

THE FIRST new council houses for 30 years are set to be built by Wealden District Council.

The £9-million scheme will see 26 houses and flats built on the site of Evelyn Clarke House, Forest Row; 22 houses and flats on the site of Rochester House in Crowborough and 16 houses and flats on the site of Towermill Place on the border between Willingdon and Polegate.

Leading housing design consultant Churchill Hui has been appointed architect.

The Homes and Communities Agency has agreed to provide a £1.4 million grant towards the project.

Remaining costs will be met from capital receipts and revenue surpluses from the Council’s own housing account and extra borrowing of £2.7million. The Housing Revenue Account is entirely separate from the Council’s tax-funded spending. The exact mix of properties will depend on the final designs for the three sites.

Affordable housing cabinet member Cllr Graham Wells said: “The 64 new council houses we are planning will be built to Lifetime Homes principles so will respond to the changing needs of future tenants as well as incorporating, where possible, sustainable local materials and impressive levels of energy efficiency.

“We are delighted Churchill Hui has taken on the challenge of designing this landmark scheme for the District.

“Over the next month the architect will be looking at the Council’s detailed brief and coming forward with initial ideas. We will then begin consulting in the New Year with the three local parish and town councils, residents and other stakeholders to progress these plans further before a final design is agreed. We expect to be able to submit planning applications for the three sites in April 2012.”

“To be part of such a groundbreaking initiative is something we are immensely proud of,” said Geoff Mules, partner at Churchill Hui. “We saw off stiff competition amongst our peers to bring this project on board and we are thrilled that we were successful and will be instrumental in designing and setting a new standard for council housing in Wealden.”

When all the homes are completed in 2014, the homes will be rented out at affordable levels. These are higher than the current social rent for the 3,100 properties the Council owns, but less than current market rents. Under the Council’s proposed new Housing Allocations policy, the properties will help cater for a wider range of housing needs in the social housing market.

The architect, Churchill Hui is an award-winning practice that was founded in 1973 and is recognised as a leader and innovator in social and affordable housing.