A MOVE to withdraw any affordable housing from the Charles Street development has been branded ‘an insult to local people’.
A proposal that will see West Dorset District Council potentially contribute a further £2million to developer Simons by underwriting the second phase of the town centre scheme has been heavily criticised.
However, it has also emerged that the developer is now also seeking to remove any affordable housing element to the scheme, which originally had an allocation of 14 affordable homes.
The suggestion was revealed at a meeting of the council’s efficiency scrutiny committee by director of environment Dr David Evans.
He said: “The current proposal is to delete the affordable housing in favour of all market flats in order to make the scheme viable.”
Barry Thompson, chairman of the Dorchester and District Labour Party, has slammed the move.
He said: “Public money has been used and the local people of Dorchester and West Dorset badly need affordable housing, either to buy or rent.”
Mr Thompson said that with West Dorset being a ‘haven’ for second home owners and holiday homes, local residents already had enough problems getting on the property ladder.
He added: “The decision to withdraw the affordable houses is wrong and an insult to local people.
“We need more affordable housing in West Dorset for local people.”
Mr Thompson said he was also ‘appalled’ at the idea of a further £2million of public funds being allocated to the Charles Street developers, a proposal which was backed by the efficiency and will now go before the executive committee and full council.
This comes on top of a loan of £250,000 the council has already provided to Simons and up to £2m it allocated in October 2012 for preparatory works on the phase two site.
Mr Thompson said: “I was appalled that they had approved another £2million handout to Simons for the Charles Street development, taking its contribution to over £4million.”
David Evans, director of environment at West Dorset District Council, said: “The district council’s policy is to ensure that 35 per cent of new housing on any development is affordable.
“This is, however, easier to achieve on some sites, for example green field sites, where extra costs like archaeological excavations do not have to be met.
“Sometimes the cost of providing affordable housing makes a development unviable.
“If this happens the district council will negotiate with the developer, taking account of the viability evidence and whether the development would benefit the community in other ways, for example by attracting shops and businesses, before making a final decision.
“What is currently being suggested by the developer for Charles Street scheme is therefore in line with our normal practice for all development sites.”