Currently there exists a covenant that the District Council uses in the sales of its properties in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to restrict the persons to whom such properties can be transferred on subsequent sales off. There are planned changes to which I am opposing.
The specific criteria of the covenant are set out in section 157 of the Housing Act 1985 but there follows a précis of the Council’s policy as regards such properties :
Where the criteria are met – in the Council’s case, where the applicant has lived and/or worked in Gloucestershire (NB. This does not include South Gloucestershire) for the three years prior to the application for consent, or has worked or lived in another A.O.N.B. or National Park – consent cannot be withheld, and is given by the Head of Housing Standards under delegated authority. If the proposed purchaser has not lived or worked in Gloucestershire for two years prior to the application for approval, consent will be automatically denied. Where the applicant has lived or worked in the county for between two and three years, the matter will be considered by the Head of Housing Standards under delegated authority. Where there is more than one purchaser, only one has to meet the criteria.
The Council has apparently recently received an increasing number of applications for consent where the applicants do not meet the criteria and given the economic climate it proposes to review its policy in relation to the AONB covenant. As part of this review the Council is consulting with local agencies. Here is what I think...
On the basis of the evidence available to me I would strongly note that the policy should remain: ex-social housing is more affordable and in villages where we do not have much social housing it at least puts a preference for local people.
I understand that there is a desire to keep the housing market alive but I am disappointed that such a proposal should come forward with no real evidence in favour of a change. Does the current policy mean that properties are sometimes cheaper as there is less competition for the sale of those properties? Does it reduce second-home ownership? I would welcome more information as to how the current policy operates, how many houses this entails, how often the policy is overturned under the delegated authority, whether there has been follow-up research on homes sold and even for example, if there are ways the policy could be more strictly followed rather than less?
The lack of affordable housing in many villages is a serious problem and we need to be doing much more to address this issue. This policy is one very small part of what is needed although I suspect it has only a marginal effect. However in my view, having not seen evidence to the contrary, it is part of the limited ways we can try to address more fairly the housing needs of local people.
Cllr. Philip Booth