Last week’s WSCT reported my discovery of an ‘oversight’ in the viability appraisals relating to the strategic development of almost 1,000 homes at Broadbridge Heath (Countryside, Wickhurst Green), which potentially amounts to an ‘error in favour of the developer’ of £6.35m.
I have now received a response from HDC to the questions I put on this subject at the latest council meeting.
Unfortunately this reply does not address the fundamental point as to how the viability calculations were accepted by HDC based on a schedule of Affordable homes that was frankly, nonsense. Also, no attempt is made to challenge my workings (all of which I have willingly supplied to HDC), so I can only presume that these are agreed as correct.
I can therefore only surmise as to how much better a note sent to me along the following lines would have been:
‘Dear Paul, You’ve done it again old chap! As ever, your logic and calculations are spot on. We confess not appreciating the drastic impact on the viability figures by simply taking 20 per cent of the overall number and mix of homes as being our outline Affordable Homes Schedule.
‘We certainly should (at least) have spotted that a schedule purporting to include 63 large four or five bedroom affordable properties was quite ridiculous. If only we had asked for just those to be reallocated as smaller homes (three beds or less) we can now see that this would have removed almost 75 per cent of the erroneous square footage allocation.
‘Unfortunately we cannot blame the DVS consultant commissioned to advise us, as he made it absolutely clear in his report just what he had used as the Affordable Homes Schedule (perhaps because he too found it a quite unusual approach!).
‘So, I am afraid that we really are stuck with this and cannot hope to recover any of the lost £5m (net) revenue towards funding the identified £14m black hole in the West of Horsham infrastructure.
‘Incidentally and thankfully we didn’t make this mistake with the other West of Horsham strategic development (Berkeley, Highwood), where we correctly had a bespoke schedule for Affordable Housing.
‘But, I can assure you that we have learnt the lesson of this. In future, if we are not to fully track square footage as strategic developments are built out, and are thereby relying on a simple count of units built, we must ensure (as we normally do) that we always have a realistic schedule of Affordable Homes at the outset. Thanks for your time and effort investigating this and also your persistence in raising this at full council meetings so all members are aware. Yours, HDC’.
Maybe, just maybe, one day such openness and honesty will be the norm! I live in forlorn hope.
Cox Green, Rudgwick
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