'Nimbys and red tape are blocking affordable homes'
A WEST Cornwall developer has hit out at councillors, council officers and Nimby residents who he says are blocking the development of vital affordable homes while young families go homeless.
Two weeks ago The Cornishman revealed just 14 affordable houses had been built in Penzance since 2009 with nearly 1,400 people waiting for a home.
Although St Ives claims a better record – with mayor Colin Nicholls estimating 200 affordable homes built in the past six years – it still has 648 people waiting for housing, while Hayle has 621.
Developer Barry Lewis, who has spent nearly 30 years in social housing, building affordable housing projects in St Ives, Mullion and Bodmin, has claimed the shortage is totally unnecessary.
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He claims pension funds have pledged to back him to build as many affordable houses as Cornwall needs.
But he said a combination of council lethargy, councillors who are "focused only on getting re-elected", and home owners who strive to block any development to safeguard their own property values, are blocking most developments.
His claim comes just days after a development of 21 homes – including 13 affordable homes – on private land behind Tyringham Row in Lelant was refused after vocal local protests.
Mr Lewis said: "The scheme at Lelant is probably a good example. The people who live there don't want new people living there. But without affordable housing young people never have places to go."
Mr Lewis said the biggest single issue is the cost of planning applications and consultations before affordable housing development can even start.
He said: "Developers are expected to pick up all the costs without any help from councils."
Mr Lewis said his company, Housing Matters, could build homes to let at £100 per week if he could build them.
Mr Lewis, 75, who describes himself as a social entrepreneur, wants councils to waive planning application costs on affordable housing developments to prove their commitment to housing local people.
Last week Councillor Nicholls opened a new scheme of 27 affordable homes in St Ives built by housing association Coastline Housing.
But a spokesperson for the not-for-profit association acknowledged: "The challenge faced by Coastline is enormous.
"At 13 times average earnings in many areas of Cornwall, high house price rises have excluded many people from owning their own home. Thousands of families have registered for affordable rented housing in the county and many more are known to be in need."
A Cornwall Council spokesperson said the authority was committed to investing more than £50 million in new homes in Cornwall.
It said 741 affordable homes were built in 2012-13 with another 432 granted planning permission.
Cornwall Council Cabinet member for homes and communities Geoff Brown said: "As a council we are committed to delivering affordable homes for local families through a range of options including new build, bringing empty homes back into use and assisting people to help them secure mortgage loans.
"While there is a financial cost to almost all planning applications, the council is happy to work with developers to assist them in securing funding to deliver affordable homes whenever possible. It is also worth noting that a number of private developers in more rural locations have successfully delivered new builds with as much as 70 per cent affordable homes.
"We will try to best match housing needs with delivery on a local basis."