Briarwood site ‘unviable’ with affordable housing

NO AFFORDABLE housing is set to be built on the former Briarwood site in the heart of St Martin’s, despite objections by the Guernsey Housing Association and Employment & Social Security.

The Briarwood site is next to St Martin's School. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 31537145)
The Briarwood site is next to St Martin's School. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 31537145)

The developers Sarnian Property Ltd and Infinity Construction managed to successfully argue to planners that creating affordable housing would make the scheme unviable.

An open planning meeting is set to be held next Monday for politicians to make the final decision on the project, which would see Grande Rue car park redeveloped and 26 homes built behind properties on the main road.

Planners have recommended the plans get the go-ahead, subject to 24 conditions.

But the plans attracted more than 40 objections, due to the density and scale of the project, as well as road safety concerns and loss of green space.

The project would not provide any affordable housing, despite policy GP11 stating that developments with between 25 and 30 new dwellings should have 28% of affordable houses.

The policy does not apply if affordable housing makes the scheme unviable.

The planners were given viability information, which was independently assessed, and it was found the project would be unviable under GP11.

‘The development would have a profit margin with no affordable housing included but the assessor advises that the profit margin would be lower than would typically be expected for a development of this type and is lower than most developers and funders would be targeting as a minimum profit on costs,’ the planning report stated.

‘The assessor concludes therefore that the application of a full or even partial policy GP11 requirement in addition to this would negatively impact the development to a point it is not considered to be viable.’

Employment & Social Security noted that the expense of purchasing and improving the public car park at Grande Rue, before returning it to the community, was the rationale for not additionally providing land for affordable housing units.

But ESS rejected this argument and said there was no justification for not having affordable housing.

‘There is a current and urgent need for affordable housing on the island with over 400 households on the waiting list for social rental housing and partial ownership,’ a committee spokesman said in the planning report.

‘There is also increasing pressure to provide additional housing for relocating keyworkers. The provision of affordable housing on this site would provide key units of accommodation at a time of high levels of unmet housing requirement. While the committee is mindful of the need to allow private housing developments to progress in order to provide much-needed private housing for islanders, it does not consider Policy GP11 to be an impediment to this progress, but rather a vital way of securing urgently-needed affordable housing at no cost to the taxpayer.’

Guernsey Housing Association formally objected, noting that the cost of car park development is not a valid argument.

‘There are over 400 households who need affordable housing and hence this site should provide its fair share as defined by the IDP.’

Outgoing GHA chief executive Steve Williams said there had been queues of people for recent GHA St Martin’s developments and they would have been keen to be part of this site.

‘It’s a very good location, the school is close by, and we are keen to provide more affordable housing in the parish,’ he said.

  • The full report can be read at https://gov.gg/opm . The open planning meeting is taking place next Monday at 4pm in the Cambridge/Delancey Room at Beau Sejour.

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