stevenage.gov.uk
District Plan

Chapter 3: Housing

3.1 INTRODUCTION

3.1.1 During the past few decades a number of major changes have taken place which have influenced local housing needs. Population trends indicate a gradual increase in the overall number of people; however, one of the most significant influences on local housing need has been the increase in the number of new households forming. This has a major impact on the need for housing in Stevenage. The households forming tend to be smaller, as young people move away from home at an earlier age. There is also an increased incidence of family break up and an increase in life expectancy. This does not directly translate into a requirement for one-bedroom houses, rather a range of housing types and sizes are required to meet household needs.

3.1.2 The majority of people moving into Stevenage during the 1950’s and 60’s had young families. Many of these original New Town residents are now retired or approaching old age but still occupy three or four bedroom houses, in part because of the limited number of bungalows or small units available. The provision of suitable smaller dwellings is therefore a priority to meet the needs of these households, and to free up under-occupied family housing in the Town.

3.1.3 Stevenage is in an area of relatively high house prices, which means that house buying is beyond the financial reach of a significant number of local people. The limited number of small properties, a marked absence of private rented accommodation and a lack of older properties suitable for conversion exacerbate this problem.

3.1.4 As this Plan has been produced to be in conformity with the Structure Plan, it must ensure that sufficient land is provided to meet the Structure Plan housing requirement for Stevenage of 5,700 dwellings between 1991-2011.

3.1.5 In 1997, land identified as available for housing development in Hertfordshire fell short of the requirement for the County to 2011. It was accepted that a strategic allocation was necessary and through joint working, Stevenage West was identified as the most sustainable option for development to meet housing needs. This site has been allocated through the Structure Plan process and detailed policies have been developed through the District Plan in order to meet Structure Plan requirements. In addition to this, the Borough Council needs to allocate further sites to meet its housing requirement to conform to the Structure Plan.

3.1.6 Since the first deposit of this Plan, Planning Policy Guidance Note 3 (PPG3) - Housing has been revised which sets out the Government’s new approach to housing development. It formalised the need for local authorities to undertake urban capacity studies in order to help plan for future housing growth on both previously-developed (also known as brownfield) and greenfield sites. An urban capacity study has been undertaken by consultants on behalf of the Borough Council to identify housing allocations and to inform the windfall allowance.

3.1.7 The Borough Council believes that new housing provision should meet the needs of local people. These needs include existing residents in unsatisfactory accommodation because it is either the wrong size or shared; the homeless; existing residents forming new households and those who cannot afford appropriate accommodation or a combination of these issues. Policies are therefore included in this chapter to ensure that these identified needs are met as far as possible. In addition policies to meet special needs such as provision for the elderly, as well as more general needs, are included.

3.2 HOUSING LAND SUPPLY

3.2.1 One of the key functions of this Plan is to provide an adequate supply of land for housing to meet the housing requirement as set out in the Structure Plan. The Borough Council is required to do this to be in conformity with the Structure Plan, which sets out strategic policies for the County and the amount of housing needed in each District.

3.2.2 Policy 9 in the Structure Plan sets out that 5,700 additional dwellings need to be provided for in Stevenage between 1991-2011. Monitoring of housing development in the Town is carried out on an annual basis in order to assess housing development in relation to the Structure Plan housing requirement. The Residential Land Availability Statement at 1st April 2002 was used as the basis for the Housing Chapter in this Plan. It shows that between 1991 and 2002, 3,845 dwellings have been built and land for a further 1,221 dwellings has been identified for development through planning permissions, allocations in the District Plan 1990 Review and the strategic allocation at Stevenage West (see Table H1). This means that land for a further 531 dwellings needs to be identified to meet the Structure Plan housing requirement. However, there are a number of adjustments which need to be made. These are outlined in the following paragraphs.

3.2.3 The Residential Land Availability Survey identifies the Lister Hospital Nurses Residences as a development of 131 dwellings. However, these are not new dwellings. The scheme involves the transfer of stock to a housing association for refurbishment. This stock will then be re-let, mainly to hospital staff, as previously.

3.2.4 In strict land use terms this development counts as additional residential accommodation, because it has involved changing use from a residential institution to residential dwellings. For annual monitoring purposes residential institutions are not included, but dwellings are. This gives the impression that there is additional housing, which is not the case. The Borough Council has decided that for the purposes of calculating the residual number of houses, for which land must be allocated, this site will not be included. However, the site will be included in the Residential Land Availability Survey.

3.2.5 Ashburnham Walk and Gladstone Court have been removed as allocations from the 1990 District Plan Review because the physical features of Ashburnham Walk mean that it is unlikely to come forward for development and the land adjacent to Gladstone Court has been sold to the adjoining garage and therefore is no longer available for housing development.

3.2.6 A more comprehensive redevelopment scheme for an existing allocation at Ross Court has increased the numbers of dwellings likely to come forward on this site.

3.2.7 An allowance also needs to be made for windfall development. This is the likely amount of housing coming forward for development from as yet unknown sites within the plan period. The windfall allowance is based on past trends and informed by the Urban Capacity Study on the numbers of dwellings which could come forward from unidentified previously–developed sites during the plan period. The allowance is made up of 20 dwellings per year for the years 2002 to 2004 and 30 dwellings per year for the years 2005 to 2011, a total of 250 from 2002 to 2011.

3.2.8 There is an assumption that a proportion of the already identified housing sites will not be developed. A non-implementation allowance takes this factor into account. Stevenage’s past non-implementation rate, compared to completions, has been very low at below 3% over the last 10 years. A non-implemented rate of 3% has therefore been allowed which gives a reduction of 37 dwellings over the plan period.

3.2.9 Taking account of these adjustments means that land for a further 531 dwellings needs to be identified to meet the Structure Plan requirement.

Table H1 : Structure Plan Review 1991-2011 housing requirement

Structure Plan Requirement 1.4.91 – 31.3.11 5,700
A Dwellings Built 1.4.91 – 31.3.02 3,845
B Commitments at 1.4.02 (including Stevenage West) 1,221
C Alterations to commitments
Lister Hospital -131
Ross Court +9
D Windfall Allowance 250
E Non- implemented allowance -37
F TOTAL (A+B+C+D-E) 5,169
G Variance from Structure Plan Requirement 531

3.2.10 Policy H1 allocates sites of greater than ten dwellings that have planning permission or have been previously allocated and have not been completed.

POLICY H1: EXISTING COMMITMENTS

The following sites are allocated for housing:

Site Area (ha) Estimated number of dwellings
1. North East Stevenage 9.3 23 (remaining)
2. Great Ashby (part) 5.6 101
3. Corey’s Mount 1.8 26 (remaining)
4. Ross Court 0.6 15
5. Oxleys Road 0.6 21

Note : All sites listed in Policy H1 are included as commitments in Table H1.

3.2.11 Table H1 shows that, in order to meet the housing requirement of the Structure Plan (April 1998), additional housing sites must be found. In response, the Borough Council has therefore identified land at Stevenage West in Policy H2 and allocated the sites in Policy H3 for housing development.

3.2.12 Structure Plan Policy 8 identifies land for 3,600 dwellings at Stevenage West, of which approximately 1,000 and 2,600 dwellings are to be within the administrative areas of Stevenage Borough and North Hertfordshire District Councils respectively. The exact number is to be determined by the Master Plan and forms part of an initial phase of 5,000, of which 1,400 dwellings are to be completed after 2011. Policy H2 of this Plan identifies land at Stevenage West for approximately 1,000 dwellings in accordance with Policy 8 of the Structure Plan.

POLICY H2: STRATEGIC HOUSING ALLOCATION – STEVENAGE WEST

In order to meet the provisions of Policy 8 in the adopted Hertfordshire Structure Plan, land at Stevenage west is identified for the development of approximately 1,000 dwellings. The allocated land is safeguarded from development, pending reconsideration and acceptance of its strategic justification.

Note : Stevenage West is included as a commitment in Table H1.

3.2.13 The Structure Plan is currently being reviewed in the light of material changes that have occurred since it was adopted in 1998, including the need to take into account the provisions of PPG3. That exercise will reassess the justification for the strategic development west of the A1(M) at Stevenage. Only if that review of the Structure Plan or an alternative form of reconsideration of the strategic need for the development determines that Stevenage West is required to meet the County’s development needs up to 2011 can the site be considered as allocated and available to be released for development. If the Review Structure Plan or alternative form of reconsideration does not justify development of the land up to 2011, it will be necessary to review this Local Plan to take account of the revised strategic policy context.

3.3 ADDITIONAL LAND FOR HOUSING.

3.3.1 New advice in PPG3 sets out guidance on the development of land for housing. Its advice is now to promote previously–developed land before greenfield sites for housing. Local authorities are therefore advised to:

3.3.2 Stevenage is a planned new town, constrained by a tight administrative boundary with only limited opportunities for new housing development. In assessing sites for housing development, the urban structure of the Town must be respected to prevent over development. The Town has been developed at relatively high densities and therefore the green spaces make an important contribution to the environment of Stevenage in terms of their visual, ecological, leisure and recreational benefit. This applies to the smaller pieces of urban green land, such as verges and residential amenity land, as well as the more traditionally valued green space, such as parks and playing fields. However, there are some small undeveloped spaces in the Town, which are less attractive and underused and do not contribute positively to the urban structure of the Town. The Government is encouraging local authorities, when assessing the best location for housing development, to consider underused urban sites, as well as previously-developed land, for development before other areas, such as Green Belt.

3.3.3 In order to meet government guidance and the Structure Plan housing requirement an Urban Capacity Study was carried out in 2000. The Study considered a range of potential sources of land for residential development focusing on previously-developed opportunities. Greenfield sites were not considered comprehensively as part of the Urban Capacity Study. However, the study did identify some underused urban sites which were not considered to contribute positively to the urban structure of the Town as set out above. The sites identified were proposed as either potential housing allocations or to inform the windfall allowance. The Urban Capacity Study Report provides further details on the methodology and results.

3.3.4 The Consultant’s work on urban capacity shows that there are opportunities for re-using previously-developed sites in the Town. However, if these sites are assessed against other Borough Council policy considerations they do not meet the Structure Plan housing requirement in full and additional sites are necessary. Using the sequential approach outlined in PPG3 the Borough Council has identified a number of other sites for housing development. These include a number of underused urban sites which do not contribute to the urban structure of the Town and are considered suitable for development in preference to releasing Green Belt sites. The Urban Capacity Study Report outlines this work in further detail.

3.3.5 The opportunities identified in the Urban Capacity Study and the additional sites have been allocated for housing development in Policy H3. This Policy identifies enough land for 614 dwellings which meets the Structure Plan requirement for Stevenage up until 2011. In light of this study the Borough Council has reviewed the housing sites allocated in the 1st deposit draft of the District Plan Second Review. The opportunities for re-using previously-developed and underused urban sites mean that allocations made for land in the Green Belt at Forster Country and Bragbury End have been deleted. The allocation at Ridgemond Park has also been withdrawn. However, this site within the urban area may be needed if monitoring shows that insufficient land for development to meet the phasing in Policy H4 is coming forward. The paragraphs below provide a brief explanation of the sites allocated and any considerations specific to individual sites.

3.3.6 A number of sites currently in employment use have been allocated for housing. Vincent Court in Fishers Green Road has been allocated for housing as unlike other employment uses that exist in Stevenage's residential areas. The Vincent Court site contains large industrial units which generate HGV movements through a residential area which was not designed to accommodate such traffic. Due to their impact, these units would be more appropriate in an Employment Area. Pond Close in the Old Town is considered suitable for mixed use development to maintain the provision of some employment floorspace. Cuttys Lane garage is not considered appropriate for mixed use because it is smaller in size.

3.3.7 A number of sites currently in community and leisure use have also been allocated for housing. The snooker club in Letchmore Road is identified as a suitable site particularly as it is close to the High Street and the facilities of the Old Town. However, the snooker club provides an important leisure facility, the loss of which would be contrary to the leisure policies of this Plan. Redevelopment proposals for this site will therefore require the snooker club to be relocated within the site. Similarly, redevelopment of the garages, community buildings, car park and associated land at Shephall View provides the opportunity to reorganise the buildings on site, replacing those that are in poor repair and enabling a more efficient use of space. The Scout’s hut and Sea Scout’s hut are considered important community assets and they will be required to be replaced within the site. The site also has a frontage onto Fairlands Valley Park therefore the design of the redevelopment will need to minimise impact on this area. Nokeside garages have particular environmental problems, therefore, the allocation of this site provides the opportunity to address this situation. However, consideration will need to be given to the replacement of some of the garages which are currently used by occupiers of the adjoining properties. Ferrier Road is a site to the south of Chells Park, the surface of which is partly concreted and is currently used for basketball and informal recreation. Development of this site will require the relocation and enhancement of this facility within the existing park. Planning obligations will be sought by the Borough Council from developers of these sites to ensure that the leisure and community facilities will either be replaced within the site or relocated close by.

3.3.8 Six Hills Way / Brittain Way is part of the old Woodside Education Centre which was bought from the County Council by the Borough Council for social housing. Not the entire site was developed and it is now proposed that the remainder of the site is brought forward for development.

3.3.9 Round Diamond School is identified by the County Council for closure when the provision is transferred to the new school proposed at Great Ashby. As the site is likely to be available for redevelopment in the plan period, part of the site has been allocated for housing. However, community activities taking place within the school will need to be retained in accordance with policy SC9.

3.3.10 The Allotment Study, referred to in the leisure chapter, identifies that there is a surplus of allotment sites and concludes that if disposal of allotment land takes place it should initially focus on specific parts of the Walkern and Fairview Road sites which are currently under-occupied and/or uncultivated. However, specific areas that are suitable for development within these sites have not been identified on the proposals map as there are other factors that will influence the exact location of development, such as access and infrastructure constraints. Development briefs will be prepared for both sites which will provide more detailed guidance on the issues identified above and provide a framework for considering development proposals. The development of these sites will only be acceptable if satisfactory arrangements are made for relocating displaced allotment plotholders within the sites and new or improved allotment facilities are provided. Planning obligations will be used for this purpose. In addition, the legislative requirements concerning the disposal of allotments set out in paragraph 8.7.6 of the leisure chapter will have to be met before development can take place.

3.3.11 The urban capacity study also identified a small number of underused urban sites located within the urban area, for development, that do not contribute towards the urban structure of the town. London Road / Old Knebworth Lane and Hertford Road are located on the periphery of the urban boundary. Land at Larkinson off Bridge Rd, adjacent to the railway, has also been identified and should be considered in conjunction, if possible, with the Fairview Road allotment site.

POLICY H3: NEW HOUSING ALLOCATIONS

In order to meet the Structure Plan housing requirement, the following sites are allocated for housing. The release of these sites for development will be in accordance with Policy H4.

Site
Area (ha)
Estimated number of dwellings
1
Pond Close
0.9
30
2
Cutty’s Lane Garage
0.1
10
3
Round Diamond School
1.42
80
4
Six Hills Way/Brittain Way
1.7
80
5
Ferrier Road
1.3
40
6
Hertford Road
0.7
30
7
London Road/Old Knebworth Lane
0.5
25
8
Vincent Court, Fishers Green Road
1.1
40
9
Snooker Club, Letchmore Road
0.3
15
10
Nokeside Garages
0.3
10
11
Shephall View
1.2
30
12
Larkinson and Fairview Road Allotments (part)
2.5
50
13
Walkern Road Allotments (part)
2.5
50
14
Fairview Road Playing Fields
2.5
100
Total
17.62
614

Phasing

3.3.12 Government guidance sets out that the release of land for development should be phased to ensure that a steady supply of land is available throughout the plan period. PPG3 also sets out that previously developed land should be developed before greenfield sites. Housing development should be monitored against the phasing in the plan so that greenfield sites are only released if previously developed sites, including windfall sites in earlier phases, are not coming forward to meet the phasing set out in the plan.

3.3.13 The remaining plan period (1.4.2002 - 31.3.2011) has been split into three phases of 2, 4 and 3 years. This enables development land to be released at a steady rate over the whole plan period. House building activity will be monitored and measured against the phasing in policy H4. As monitoring is carried out it may be necessary to move sites between phases e.g. if insufficient sites from phase 1 are being developed, sites from phase 2 can be moved forward to maintain supply. If more housing development is occurring through windfall development than was anticipated greenfield sites can be moved into later phases. Stevenage West, as a strategic allocation, falls outside this process. Because of the nature of the development a long lead in time is necessary and therefore, although planning permission for this site will need to be secured in advance of the phasing indicated in policy H4, it is unlikely that house building will start until the second phase as in policy H4. There may also be occasions where sites in later phases, where a longer lead in time can be justified, would be considered for release in advance of the phase in which they are identified to come forward.

3.3.14 Table H2 provides a guide to the release of allocations in the plan. Policy H4 sets out the anticipated phasing of allocated sites in the plan, taking into account the figures in Table H2 as well as the speed at which the sites may come forward. Therefore the totals for each phase may not match those in the table. The first phase has more potential for dwellings as it is anticipated that some of these sites may not come forward as quickly as others. However, the overall total only exceeds the Structure Plan housing requirement by one dwelling. As indicated in phases 2 and 3, the allocation at Stevenage West makes up the bulk of housing land supply during these phases. However, the windfall allowance enables other sites which meet the criteria to come forward for development giving a range of opportunities for developers.

Table H2 : Phasing guidance figures

Phase Requirement
Phase 1
1.4.02 – 31.3.04 412.2
Phase 2
1.4.04 – 31.3.08 824.4
Phase 3
1.4.08 – 31.3.11 618.3
Total (5,700 – 3,845 = 1,855 Dwellings that need to be built to meet the Structure Plan housing requirement) 1,855

Note : Phase requirement is calculated by dividing the number of dwellings left to complete by the number of years in the remaining plan period.
i.e. 1,855/9 = 206
206 is the annual average completion rate necessary to meet the housing requirement. This figure is then multiplied by the number of years in each phase to give the requirement for each phase.

POLICY H4: PHASING

Housing sites allocated in policies H2 and H3 will be released in accordance with the phasing in this policy.
If monitoring shows that:
(a) more dwellings are coming forward from windfall sites than anticipated then consideration will be given to moving greenfield sites into later phases; or
(b) sites are not coming forward for development then consideration will be given to moving sites into earlier phases or carrying out an alteration to this plan to allocate further sites.

Phases
Estimated no. Of dwellings
Phase 1 sites: 2001 - 2004
Existing commitments (including alterations, but excluding Stevenage west).
99
Windfall allowance
40
Non- implementation allowance
-10
1. Pond Close
30
2. Cutty’s Lane Garage
10
3. Round Diamond School
30
4. Six Hills Way / Brittain Way
30
5. Ferrier Road
30
6. Hertford Road
15
7. London Road / Old Knebworth Lane
24
14. Fairview Road Playing Fields
30
Total for phase 1
353
Phase 2 sites: 2004 – 2008
Stevenage West
400
Windfall allowance
120
Non- implementation allowance
-10
3. Round Diamond School
50
4. Six Hills Way/ Brittain way
50
5. Ferrier Road
10
6. Hertford Road
15
8. Vincent Court, Fishers Green Road
40
9. Snooker Club, Letchmore Road
15
10. Nokeside Garages
10
11. Shephall View
30
12. Larkinson and Fairview Road Allotments (part)
50
13. Walkern Road Allotments (part)
50
14. Fairview Road Playing Fields
70
Total for phase 2
900
PHASE 3 SITES: 2008 – 2011
Stevenage West
600
Windfall allowance
90
Non- implementation allowance
-4
Total for phase 3
686
Total for all three phases
1,939

3.3.15 In addition to the phasing of sites across the town, phasing of individual large developments, particularly those of over 10 hectares is important. This is to co-ordinate the provision of infrastructure, schools, leisure and social and community facilities within the development. Developers will be expected to indicate phasing as part of their planning application.

Monitoring

3.3.16 It is necessary for the Borough Council to monitor the supply of housing land, to ensure that sufficient housing land is released for development in line with policy H4. This will be undertaken by publishing an annual residential land availability statement.

POLICY H5 : RESIDENTIAL LAND MONITORING

To ensure that sufficient housing land is coming forward for development in Stevenage to meet the Structure Plan housing requirement, an annual residential land availability statement will be produced. This will monitor the housing development taking place and permissions granted in relation to the phasing set out in Policy H4 and inform any changes necessary to it or the need for an alteration to this plan in order to allocate further sites for development.

3.3.17 In Stevenage the planned nature of the town and tightly drawn administrative boundary limit the opportunities for development. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that land with planning permission or allocated for residential development in this plan is retained. Should any such sites be developed for other purposes a shortfall in housing land may result. The Borough Council is concerned to ensure that sufficient land is available to meet the housing programme as set out in the Structure Plan in order to make adequate provision in quantitative terms for local housing needs. The only exception to this is where planning permissions for housing development come up for renewal and they no longer meet government guidance in PPG3. In order to assess this, housing proposals which come up for renewal should be considered against policy H7 which sets out criteria for assessing windfall site proposals. Where sites for renewal meet the criteria in policy H7, they will also need to be reviewed against other policies in the Plan e.g. policy H8.

POLICY H6: LOSS OF RESIDENTIAL ACCOMMODATION

The loss of residential accommodation or land with planning permission for residential development will not be permitted except where:

(a) small scale social, community or leisure facilities would be provided; or
(b) small scale extension to an existing business use in the same building would be provided; and
(c) it does not adversely affect the surrounding or adjoining properties; or
(d) Suitable alternative non-residential accommodation is not available; and
(e) The proposal is for renewal of planning permission and the site does meet the criteria in Policy H7.

3.3.18 Land not identified for housing in this plan may come forward for residential development as “windfall” sites. In line with Government guidance the Borough Council will expect the majority of these sites to be previously-developed. However, there may be some small underused urban sites where residential development would not compromise the urban structure of the town nor have a detrimental effect on the environment and in particular its planned open character. The criteria for assessing proposed housing sites are set out in policy H7. Proposals will also be expected to meet other relevant policies in the plan, such as the provision of affordable housing.

POLICY H7: ASSESSMENT OF WINDFALL RESIDENTIAL SITES

Proposals for residential development on sites not allocated in this plan or applying for renewal of planning permission will only be acceptable where:

(a) the site is on land classified as previously – developed or small underused urban sites; and
(b) development of the site would not lead to the loss of features as defined in Policy TW2 and/
or community facilities in relation to Policy TW3;and
(c) there is no detrimental effect on the environment and the surrounding or adjoining properties; and
(d) there is access to local facilities; and
(e) they include opportunities to access alternative forms of travel to private motorised transport

Policies TW2 and TW3.

3.3.19 In order to promote the most efficient use of land for housing, the Borough Council considers that the density requirements outlined in policy H8 are necessary. These seek to ensure that land is not underdeveloped whilst respecting the density of the surrounding area and taking into account the uses and facilities available in the locality. For example, in areas close to facilities and passenger transport access, lower car parking provision is possible which releases more land for housing. Government guidance is promoting densities of 30-50 dwellings per hectare, particularly in urban areas, and higher where there is good access to alternative modes of transport. Density will be measured in line with the approach in PPG3 so that only those areas which will be developed for housing and directly associated uses are included in the density calculation. This approach has been used in calculating the allocations in policy H3.

POLICY H8: DENSITY OF RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT

The density of all residential development will respect the characteristics of the site and the character and amenity of the surrounding area. In general, the net density of new housing should be within the range of 30-50 dwellings per hectare. Higher densities (50-65+ dwellings per hectare) will be encouraged in developments in the town centre and at neighbourhood centres and other locations well served by passenger transport.

Conversion and Redevelopment

3.3.20 Housing is a valuable resource, which is in limited supply. In view of the size of the Housing Register and the limited supply of housing land available for the future, the Borough Council aims to prevent the loss of housing except where this accords with other policies in the plan.

3.3.21 The demand for smaller units can be supplemented from the existing housing stock by the conversion of larger properties into smaller self-contained units or Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO’s). The Borough Council encourages this opportunity and, in order to make the most efficient use of housing stock, will consider favourably proposals for such conversions, providing they do not have a detrimental effect on the surrounding area particularly with respect to traffic generation and car parking. Similarly buildings in other uses may be suitable for conversion to residential dwellings, such as offices. However, in converting other uses to residential, developers will need to demonstrate that the use is no longer required in line with other policies in the plan. Care must be taken that such conversions meet the necessary regulations and the standards as set out in the Environmental Safeguards (or as subsequently amended). These types of developments will contribute to meeting the Structure Plan housing requirement as windfall sites.

POLICY H9: CONVERSIONS

To make the best use of the existing housing stock, favourable consideration will be given to the conversion or adaptation of suitable dwellings to meet the needs of specific groups including single people, the elderly and disabled people. In assessing such proposals they should not have a detrimental effect on the surrounding area and should meet the standards set out in the Environmental Safeguards (or as subsequently amended).

Additionally proposals for conversion of buildings in uses other than residential will need to demonstrate that the current use is no longer required in line with other policies in this plan.

3.3.22 There are areas of poor quality housing in Stevenage, where there may be scope for redevelopment. However, because of the limited number of dwellings available such redevelopment schemes should not result in an overall loss in the number of dwellings. To improve these areas and to meet the demand for additional housing, the Borough Council will consider favourably redevelopment schemes, which result in environmental improvements or an increase in the number of dwellings.

POLICY H10 : REDEVELOPMENTS

In areas of poorer quality housing, redevelopment proposals that increase the number of dwellings and/or improve the local environment will be considered favourably.

3.4 LOCAL HOUSING NEED

3.4.1 The Borough Council recognises that the allocation of housing land would only result in the required number of dwellings to be built. This does not necessarily result in the building of houses appropriate to meeting local needs. Additional policies are needed to set out the mix of housing to be provided. The Borough Council will consider favourably planning applications that provide an appropriate mix of housing.

3.4.2 Local housing need includes a number of different groups. These include existing residents in the Borough who wish to remain in Stevenage but whose current accommodation is unsatisfactory; the homeless; and those who would like to have their own separate accommodation but who currently live with others. Other groups include the elderly; existing households or prospective households that cannot enter the private housing market because of their level of income, and households unable to move to a more suitable size of public sector accommodation due to the length of the Council’s Housing Register.

3.4.3 The Borough Council considers it necessary to ensure that a range of dwelling sizes are provided as part of any residential development including one and two bedroom accommodation. There is also a need to enable households to increase in size in the future without necessarily having to move house, by consideration being given to the design of dwellings to allow the possibility of future limited extension.

3.4.4 To encourage a range of prices, a mix of different types of houses will also be required, including bungalows and flats. This is to meet a range of different needs within the local housing market and promote visual interest in the street scene.

POLICY H11: DWELLING MIX

In all residential developments an appropriate mix of dwellings in terms of size and type will be sought to meet the identified range of housing needs. The mix of housing on each particular site will be based on an up-to-date assessment of the need for different types and sizes of dwellings and an understanding of the locational context of the site.

3.5 SPECIAL NEEDS

3.5.1 The requirements of special groups are only partially satisfied through the private housing market. It is important that, where a need for special needs housing has been identified, these needs are met on sites identified in the Plan, large sites that come forward for development and other sites that are considered appropriate.

The Borough Council has identified the following special needs groups:
(a) elderly people;
(b) disabled people;
(c) homeless people (temporary accommodation); and
(d) other groups with special needs, such as those being cared for in the community as a result of the closing of long stay institutions.

3.5.3 Housing for some categories of special needs, in particular the elderly and disabled, is best provided at locations with good links to facilities and services, such as neighbourhood centres. However, because of its planned nature, there is limited scope for small infill sites in the Town, especially close to neighbourhood centres. It is, therefore, essential that where sites are available which do meet these requirements, they should provide special needs housing for those groups with the greatest need to be housed in such locations. On other sites, which are not as well located to neighbourhood centres, special needs housing will be encouraged which is not locationally specific.

3.5.4 On larger sites these types of developments can be planned as part of the proposal. Policy H12 identifies sites that have been allocated for special needs accommodation. On such sites provision for special needs will be expected on a scale which is appropriate to the size of development and locality, but which does not seek to recreate institution style accommodation.

POLICY H12 : SPECIAL NEEDS ACCOMMODATION

Where a need has been identified, the local planning authority will negotiate with developers to secure a proportion of housing specifically designed to meet the needs of certain groups with special needs. All housing developments of an appropriate scale will be encouraged to make a contribution towards meeting this need. The type and mix of special needs housing sought on each site will depend on the location.

The following allocated sites in particular have been identified as being suitable for making a contribution towards special housing needs:

1. Oxleys Road
2. Ross Court
3. 124 Letchmore Road
4. Stevenage West
5. Round Diamond School
6. Six Hills Way/ Brittain Way
7. Larkinson and Fairview Road Allotments (part)
8. Walkern Road Allotments (part)
9. Fairview Road Playing Fields (part)

Site 1 is included as an existing commitment in Policy H1
Sites 2 - 4 are included in the commitments in Table H1
Sites 5 - 9 are allocated for development in Policy H3

3.6 DISABLED ACCESS

3.6.1 Part M of the Building Regulations has recently been extended to include all new homes. It sets out the requirements for new houses regarding provisions for disabled access. The Borough Council will encourage developers to further enhance access to new houses by promoting the lifetime homes standards as set out in the Joseph Rowntree publication “Foundations – Building Lifetime Homes” February 1997, which proposes standards to enable homes to be more easily adapted when peoples lives change.

3.7 PUBLIC SECTOR HOUSING

3.7.1 Private sector proposals for housing development are orientated to market requirements, which often do not meet the needs of those on the Housing Register. The Borough Council, as Strategic Housing Authority, recognises that provision for local and special needs is met mainly by the public sector. With the decrease in public housing stock as a result of Right to Buy legislation, the Borough Council wishes to ensure that it maintains a development programme for public housing.

3.8 AFFORDABLE HOUSING

3.8.1 Stevenage is an area of relatively high private sector house prices. It is therefore difficult, or impossible, for many residents to be able to buy their own homes. Affordable housing to meet such local needs can be achieved in different ways. A housing needs study carried out in 1997 showed that 53% of all households in the Borough could not afford to buy or rent at current market prices based on their current income and savings levels. However, this does not translate into a need for 53% of new houses to be built as “affordable”. Not all of these households are in housing need.

3.8.2 Being in “housing need” occurs when households are in unsuitable housing (such as because of health conditions, dwelling condition or overcrowding) and not being able to afford market housing. These households may form part of the Council’s housing register who are waiting for either Council owned or Registered Social Landlord (RSL) owned accommodation to become available or for new affordable housing to be built or acquired.

3.8.3 In terms of defining what affordable housing means in relation to need in Stevenage, the study showed that low cost or discounted market price housing did not meet the need for affordable housing in the Town. Even with a 40% discount on the market price of new housing, 56% of Stevenage households could not afford to buy. If only households that are not already home owners are considered the figure rises to almost 90%. It is, therefore, appropriate that the majority of affordable housing provision should be subsidised social rented housing, with the balance comprising other forms of affordable housing, since these are unlikely to be an option for many households in Stevenage.

3.8.4 The 1997 housing needs study has been updated in part in a joint housing needs study with North Hertfordshire District Council to establish the level of provision of affordable housing for Stevenage West. This reflects housing need in both areas and the strategic status of the development. The joint housing needs study identified that Stevenage requires 1,075 affordable homes, a significant proportion of future housing provision in Stevenage.

3.8.5 Government guidance recognises that housing needs assessments involve interpretation and judgement. Issues such as achieving a sustainable community by a mix of tenure, providing a balanced housing mix and the practicalities of providing affordable housing need to be taken into consideration when establishing the level of provision of affordable housing. Government advice on affordable housing provision in PPG3 and Circular 6/98 makes it clear that the Borough Council can expect the provision of affordable housing which reflects the needs of its area on suitable sites. The policies in this plan provide a guide to the Borough Council’s requirements for developments to deliver affordable housing. In considering schemes for affordable housing, the Borough Council will require proposals meeting local needs, while the majority of which will need to be for rent at an affordable level, as defined in policy H15. The benefits of other affordable tenures will be required to pass to the initial tenants or owners as well as their successors.

3.8.6 In light of these issues the Borough Council concludes that at least 20% of the proposed dwellings on all housing sites within the proposed development west of the A1(M) at Stevenage and on suitable sites elsewhere in the plan area can be justified for subsidised social rent and between 2-5% for other types of affordable tenure. The exact percentage within this range will depend upon local market conditions.

3.8.7 The Borough Council recognises that RSL’s have an important role in providing affordable housing. The Borough Council will support development proposals by such organisations. In order to ensure that such developments are specifically aimed at local people, the Borough Council will seek nomination rights.

3.8.8 In order to assess the effectiveness of these policies in delivering affordable housing, monitoring will be undertaken to measure the amount and type of affordable housing coming forward as part of residential developments on both allocated and windfall sites.

POLICY H13: AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROVISION

On all housing sites within the plan area that form part of the proposed development west of the A1(M) at Stevenage, and on suitable sites elsewhere which come forward for residential development, where the proposal is for 25 or more dwellings or the site area is one hectare or more, irrespective of the number of dwellings, developers will be expected to provide a proportion of affordable housing.

At least 20% of the total number of dwellings on the site will be negotiated for subsidised social rented housing and an additional 2-5% will be for other types of affordable tenure.

As part of this provision, the borough council will seek suitable affordable housing for special needs on those sites referred to in Policy H13.

On sites outside the proposed development west of the A1(M) at Stevenage, the borough council will seek the provision of affordable housing on smaller sites where these sites form part, or reasonably could form part, of a larger development.

Relaxation of this policy will only be considered where it can be proved that:

(a) there will be particular costs associated with the development of the site e.g. infrastructure or contamination; and
(b) The provision of affordable housing on the site would prejudice the realisation of other planning objectives for the site.

Affordable housing will be expected to be provided on site to ensure an appropriate mix and balance. A financial contribution towards affordable housing on another site will only be considered where:

(A) It can be proved preferable for planning reasons; and
(B) It would relate to a suitable alternative site; and
(C) It can be brought forward for development within a similar timescale.

3.8.9 In order to ensure that affordable housing provision meets local housing needs, developers will be expected to have regard to the Borough Council’s housing needs study. This sets out the type of affordable housing which meets local needs. Management of affordable housing after development is generally expected to be carried out by transferring the affordable housing units to an RSL. The Borough Council has a list of preferred RSL’s. In order to facilitate this it is important that developers involve the RSL at an early stage to ensure that the affordable units are of a standard to meet their requirements. Where the units are not intended to be transferred to an RSL the criteria in policy H16 will apply.

POLICY H14: BENEFITS OF AFFORDABILITY

In order to secure affordable housing the following planning conditions will be applied or planning obligations will be sought to ensure that:

(a) the affordable housing units will be transferred to a registered social landlord: or

(b) the levels of rent, mortgage repayment or other equivalent payments for affordable properties are restricted to being no higher than the housing corporation rent cap; and

(C) priority is given to people on or eligible to be on the council’s housing register. If, after 6 weeks (in the case of a rented property) or 3 months (in the case of an owner occupied or shared ownership property) a suitable occupant is not found, then people on, or eligible to be on the housing registers of adjoining authorities will be accepted.

Additionally the affordable housing element is built for occupation in accordance with an agreed phased development of the whole site.

3.8.10 Large sites, which have been allocated in policies H2 and H3, will be expected to contribute to the provision of affordable housing in the town, these have been identified in policy H17.

POLICY H15: SITES FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING

The Borough Council has identified the following sites for affordable housing:

Site Area (ha)
1. Corey’s Mount Part
2. Stevenage West Part
3. Pond Close Part
4. Round Diamond School Part
5. Six Hills Way/ Brittain Way Part
6. Ferrier Road Part
7. Hertford Road Part
8. London Road/Old Knebworth Lane Part
9. Shephall View Part
10. Larkinson and Fairview Road Allotments (part) Part
11. Walkern Road Allotments (part) Part
12. Fairview Road Playing Fields Part
13. Nokeside 0.3

Policy SW12

3.8.11 There may be a limited number of sites, not allocated in this plan for housing, which may come forward for consideration. These will be assessed against a number of policies in this plan, this will include their ability to secure affordable housing for local needs and their contribution to the requirements for special needs accommodation.