Mid Devon’s future housing strategy plans published

The public is being invited to have a say on Mid Devon’s new housing strategy until 2025, which includes a target for 160 new council houses.

[Mid-Devon is currently a “no overall control” council with 20 Conservatives, 11 Lib Dem, 8 Independent and 2 Green councillors]

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

The authority’s cabinet approved the draft strategy for a consultation that will begin later this week and last until the end of the month.

The 40 objectives set out in the document include 160 new council houses of a mix of social and affordable rent. Social rent homes are typically let at around half the local market rate by a registered provider, while affordable rent is up to 80 per cent.

The strategy also details how the council intends to retrofit its existing housing stock to a net zero carbon standard by 2050, help provide serviced plots for custom and self-build housing, provide eight new pitches for the gypsy and traveller communities and minimise rough sleeping to five people or fewer in Mid Devon at any one time.

In the introduction to the 56-page document, Councillor Bob Evans (Conservative, Lower Culm), deputy leader and cabinet member for housing and property services, said: “It is important that we support housing growth to meet a growing population and to support economic growth, but this cannot be achieved solely by developing new homes, but also by focusing on our existing stock and making better use of it for everyone, including our vulnerable households.”

Debating the strategy, Councillor Graeme Barnell (Lib Dem, Newbrooke) said that while its contents had been well-received at the scrutiny committee and homes policy development group, the plan was not ambitious enough.

“The housing crisis in Mid Devon – so-called – is one primarily of affordability. This plan, where it does address the issue of council housing and affordable housing, is very limited in its scope. All national studies suggest we need a hundred [social rented] houses a year, in addition to the current figures, and this comes nowhere near that.”

Cllr Barnell also criticised the proposed two-week public consultation on the plan, but Simon Newcombe, group manager for public health and regulatory services, later confirmed the consultation would stay open until the end of September.

Responding to Cllr Barnell’s comments, Cllr Evans said the plan was something the council “will deliver” and the “possibilities beyond this will be worked upon”.

“What we wanted to set out was something that we could be held accountable to and that we know that we can deliver. This isn’t the extent of where we believe we can go.”

Mr Newcombe added that, following the end of the consultation, final updates will be made to the strategy in early October before it is brought back to the cabinet for approval.