Developers finally find a solution to what will happen to four affordable homes being built in Manea

Station road, Manea. Development. Picture: Steve Williams

Station road, Manea. Development. Picture: Steve Williams - Credit: Archant

Developers struggling to find a housing association willing to take four affordable homes in Manea off their hands – being built as part of the original contract- believe they have found a solution.

Architectural consultant Peter Humphrey and former Fenland councillor Pop Jolley had been locked in talks with Fenland Council for months over the requirement to build the homes as part of a consent given for 14 houses at 55 Station Road.

The homes are to be taken on by Rentplus, a for profit organisation set up three years to help ease the housing crisis at the affordable end of the market.

The company leases it homes to housing associations which are then let to those on the council housing waiting list but who are judged to have too high an income for traditional social housing and want to get on the housing ladder.

The homes are let at 80 per cent of market rent and at periodic intervals tenants are offered the chance to buy their home with a 10 per cent “gifted deposit”.

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Last November, Circle Housing Roddons told the developers that “the rent cap has had a massive effect on business planning and capacity” for registered providers such as Roddons.

Emails held on the planning files at Fenland Hall reveal the growing frustration and delays over finding a solution.

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In November Mr Humphrey wrote to planning officers stating that “Pop (Jolley) and I would like to meet with you to agree the way forward once and for all.

“It is clear that Fenland District Council has imposed a Section 106 (community benefit) on the site which cannot be implemented as there are no RSLs (registered social landlords) who want to take these four affordable houses on!!

“Can you please advise when it would be convenient to meet and discuss further? We would expect that whoever we meet will be in a position of authority enough to make the decision of what we can do the resolve the issue imposed by you and the S106.”

In one email, however, head of planning Nick Harding reminded them that the S106 had been freely entered into and it was the developers’ responsibility to find a social housing provider.

“The S106 requires you to submit an affordable housing scheme rather than the council,” Mr Harding told them in January of this year.

“So it is not correct to state that it is the council’s job to find an RSL to take the affordable units.”

He argued that a cash in lieu settlement was not of the question but that “any deal struck must be backed up by appropriate evidence as otherwise the process will not be transparent”.

Mr Humphrey said this week that “works have commenced on site and we are looking for completion of these homes for October”.

The original application to build on the site was submitted by Norman Fox of March who has sold several of the plots: other plots are owned by Mr Humphrey through his Portman Developments Ltd company and by Mr Jolley through Poppyfield Investments.

Mr Humphrey and Mr Jolley undertook responsibility for the social housing provision as part of an arrangement made with the applicant.

Work has stalled on one of the plots, a self build project being undertaken by David Addison who is locked in legal proceedings and declined to comment on what actions he is taking and against whom.

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