Row over bid to build 600 homes across Norfolk

Almost 140 homes are due to be built in Acle under the Repton Homes scheme. Picture: Google Maps.

Almost 140 homes are due to be built in Acle under the Repton Homes scheme. Picture: Google Maps. - Credit: Archant

More than 600 homes will be built by Norfolk County Council over the next five years, but a row has broken out over how many of them will be affordable.

Labour leader Steve Morphew. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Labour leader Steve Morphew. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

The county council has set up Repton Property Developments to develop sites for homes on council land, with the help of private housebuilding companies.

Council bosses say building homes will bring in millions of pounds for the authority - at a time when it is having to find new ways to pay for services against a backdrop of dwindling cash from central government.

But opposition councillors criticised the business plan for the company, which was agreed by the council's cabinet at a meeting on Monday, because it does not have targets for how much should be affordable, other than relying on policies for such housing set by district councils.

Steve Morphew, Labour group leader, said: "Repton is wholly owned and relying on council loans, yet not committed to following council policies and priorities.

Ed Maxfield, Liberal Democrat group leader. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Ed Maxfield, Liberal Democrat group leader. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

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"No commitment to homes for those needing or leaving care, nothing on our climate targets and the bare minimum affordable homes despite the woeful shortage across Norfolk. It sounds like a private sector developer in it for profit. Something that could do so much good has already got a lot of question marks hanging over it."

There was also criticism that there is no target for a set number of homes in each development to be for older people.

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Ed Maxfield, Liberal Democrat group leader, said: "Repton was set up to make a quick buck out of house building. If the county council wants to help with providing affordable homes I welcome that but they need to be genuinely affordable and meet the biggest need.

"Repton Homes have made it clear that there is no intention to meet the need for older persons' homes unless required through the planning process. This looks like another missed opportunity to make a real difference for those most in need."

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, the council's leader and chairman of Repton, said: "Repton is delivering our ambitious vision of developing high-quality housing in Norfolk. We are looking to build much-needed homes, as well as generating income for the county council. Our Acle and Hopton sites alone should generate a profit of more than £9m, after tax."

Our provision of affordable homes should be judged on our record as our developments come forward. Where other developers seek to reduce the number of affordable homes on their developments, we are ready to meet local targets without any attempts to 'negotiate down'.

"Our approach to our new development at Acle is evidence that we practice what we preach: a full third of units will be affordable, and demonstrate our intention to deliver more affordable homes for Norfolk across the Repton Homes developments.

"We are also taking major steps to provide suitable housing for older residents: our Extra Care Housing programme, with a budget including £29m of Norfolk County Council capital, is delivering suitable homes for elderly residents, above and beyond any that may be provided by Repton Homes."

The first phase of sites will see Repton Property Developments working with Lovell Partnerships to build homes.

That includes 137 homes on land near Norwich Road in Acle, a scheme which has already got planning permission.

Another of the schemes is for 200 homes off Lowestoft Road in Hopton-on-Sea.

There also two sites in Attleborough where the company wants to build homes, near New Road and Hargham Road.

The second phase, working with Torrington Property Ltd on smaller sites, includes land at St Nicholas Drive in Caister-on-Sea, at Lingwood School and at High Station in Cromer.

The idea is the council sells off surplus land it owns to the property company, which then works with the housebuilder to construct the homes.

The company is named after the 19th Century landscape designer Humphrey Repton.

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