Council will not set up own company to build new homes

September 25 2020
Council will not set up own company to build new homes

SOUTH Gloucestershire Council has rejected the idea of setting up its own housing company.

Council scrutiny commission members heard that it would not build enough homes to pay for itself.

Instead, the local authority intends to enter into joint ventures to develop land it owns.

Officers assessed more than 100 council-owned plots and whittled them down to just four that had the potential for more than 10 new houses.

The others were either economically unviable or had constraints to development, so other uses, such as improving green spaces and community facilities, are being explored for these.

A report to councillors said up to 465 homes could be built on the four, as yet unnamed, sites but that this was less than six per cent of the amount of new residential properties expected in South Gloucestershire over the next five years.

The report said: “Officers have held meetings and consulted with housing companies established by other councils. Advice obtained was that a ready, developable pipeline of sites is necessary to be established before a housing company is set up.

The set-up costs for other council-owned housing companies are approximately £1 million, with ongoing running costs of approximately £200,000 per annum for staffing.

It is therefore considered that there is an insufficient supply of homes to justify the set-up and running costs of a housing company.”

Neighbouring Bristol City Council is among the local authorities to create its own housing business, Goram Homes.

The report to the scrutiny commission, which met virtually on September 16 (pictured above), said joint ventures with developers were financially a better option and carried less risk.

South Gloucestershire Council officer Katy Nurse told members: “The joint venture would be on standby for when we need it.

There would be a set-up cost but there are sites we could get going with.

We can still influence the kind of development we want by ensuring the joint venture partner has similar values to the council so they can deliver on our climate emergency objectives and better design.”

Thornbury ward councillor Maggie Tyrrell said: “It would be prudent to involve local members in any wards that are affected by anything that’s happening on land owned by the council.

We have an understanding that some issues around any development are confidential.

But local members have occasionally found that they get to hear things after members of the public, which is not helpful."

Ms Nurse said “everybody will be consulted” about the four development sites.

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service