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Dartford housing development hits snag on affordable homes

Work on Lowfield Street in Dartford is to get under way before the end of summer, but its affordable housing has hit a snag.

Developer Meyer Homes is planning to build 548 homes on the dilapidated site over the next few years, with 11% of the total to be made affordable.

Labour councillors tried to have that proportion increased when Dartford council’s planning board approved the application in March, but it stayed at 11% and will now take even longer to build than expected.

View from park to new access route to Lowfield Street
View from park to new access route to Lowfield Street

The latest planning report regarding the project, on the council’s website, states that Meyer Homes will be allowed more time to deliver the quota as it works on the details of its Section 106 agreement.

Section 106 agreements are private arrangements made between local authorities and developers that can be attached to any planning permission to offset the impact of a development.

The report states: “The developer has now done more detailed work on the programming of the project and is seeking to move the completion date for the affordable housing element of the project from the end of 2019 until the end of 2020.

“Officers reported that this was a realistic timetable given that the Section 106 agreement had yet to be signed and given the volume of the works required. It was unusual to require a delivery date for affordable housing in a Section 106 agreement but this would ensure that this element of the project was completed by a given date and also early within the scheme.”

Some other elements of the Section 106 are the provision of a car club for residents in a bid to allay fears over increased traffic in the area, adequate car parking, and some public art. The council’s planning board, which describes the project as “one of the most high profile and important applications that the board had dealt with over the past 10 years”, wanted the terms to be agreed in full by the end of August.

With discussions with Meyer continuing, that target is unlikely to be met.

Dartford councillor Joshua Jones
Dartford councillor Joshua Jones

Deputy Dartford Labour leader Cllr Joshua Jones, who raised concerns about the amount of affordable housing back in March, said he hoped it did not become an opportunity for Meyer to scale back its commitment.

He said: “I take the developer at their word but I am quite clear that if we see any reduction in the levels of affordable housing or any move to delay this further, I will be calling them back into the council to discuss that.

“The 11% was unacceptable to myself and my Labour colleagues, so any movement to water that down will be met with strong opposition from us and I think a lot of the town.

“We are watching them and Dartford is watching them. We want work to begin as soon as possible.”

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