Affordable housing scheme an ‘insult’ to the most disadvantaged in society, meeting told
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A meeting heard 25 per cent of the properties do not meet national minimum space requirements.
Wakefield Council’s planning and highways committee approved the scheme in a majority vote.
The properties will be built on the site of council-owned land close to Kirkgate roundabout.
The area was once occupied by Chantry House, which housed the local authority’s council tax and highways departments.
Planning consultant Mark Lane spoke in favour of the development on behalf of Wakefield District Housing, the registered provider of the homes.
He said: “This development will be in the heart of the city, bringing back into use the site of the former Chantry House and providing for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society.
“The proposals work within the constraints of the site and delivers quality housing of the right size and specifications.”
The council acquired the land five years ago as part of plans to regenerate the Kirkgate area.
The development includes building a block of 24 apartments and 26 houses.
The four-storey apartment block will contain 11 one-bed and 13 two-bed properties.
Committee member Steve Tulley criticised the scheme, saying: “You mention this development is being for the most disadvantaged in society.
“But we have a situation where 25 per cent of the homes are too small.
“I don’t know why you didn’t put a bridge over the roundabout and stick four bungalows on it.
“The properties are so close to a main road, where we are expecting people to raise their children. It takes the biscuit.
“I for one find it very difficult to accept that we have built properties so close to that major roundabout in the city centre.”
Coun Tulley claimed the homes would be harmful to the mental health of future residents.
He added: “It just seems to me that, because it’s affordable and it’s for the most disadvantaged, it will do.
“I find that quite insulting in actual fact.
“Why do we want to be building houses so close to a roundabout and a main road which is busy 24/7?
“That is making me very suspicious and I cannot support this application.
“There are issues around child asthma, air quality and people’s quality of life.
“Yet in our area we are sticking houses up like this. We may as well put them on the pavement.”
Coun Kevin Swift said a report referred to a children’s play area on Berners Street as being an “acceptable substitute” for some of the under-sized properties.
He asked Mr Lane: “Are you aware of the reputation that site has in terms of public safety?”
Coun Swift also raised concerns about the loss of a public car park on Brunswick Street.
Mr Lane said the properties that did not meet minimum space standards were “marginally small” and acceptable to the council’s planning officers.
He said the development had been praised by Wakefield Civic Society and councillors and the public had been consulted before the plans were drawn up.
Coun Swift questioned the design of some of the homes, asking: “Are you building a maintenance problem in the future?
Mr Lane replied: “I’m not an engineer or an expert in construction. I’m a planning consultant.
“But construction these days is always of a very high standard and I can’t see a reason why there would be quality or maintenance issues.”
Coun Stuart Hepstinstall said he welcomed the scheme, saying: “There is no other ward in Wakefield metropolitan district that has more HMOs (house of multiple occupancy) and inadequate housing than Wakefield East ward.
“This development will be a good site for people to live in decent accommodation.
“I will be voting for it.”