A shortage of land is the main reason Penistone is short of affordable housing – to rent or to buy – area manager Elaine Slater told Penistone Area Council.
She said that Barnsley Council and housing associations were willing to provide the homes, but there was no land available to put them on.
Coun Paul Hand-Davis, who is a member of Barnsley’s Planning Board, said: “There are various local and government-inspired targets, but I don’t know how we achieve them. I really don’t think we are getting there, in Penistone or anywhere else.
“Developers don’t want to build anything other than four- or five-bedroomed detached, so we are not building houses young people can afford.”
He pointed out that affordable housing included renting, part-ownership and other schemes as well as outright purchase. “It is a very complicated issue,” he said, “but I can assure you there is not enough affordable housing.”
Members were unsure what was meant by affordable housing. Chair Robert Barnard said: “Defining it is always a problem.” Coun Hand-Davis suggested “something young people can afford to move into”. Coun Ann Rusby asked: “Affordable to whom? Even some of the terraced houses in Penistone have outpriced the young people because the area has become so popular.” And Coun Joe Unsworth, chair of Penistone Town Council’s planning committee said “even a two-bedroomed house was not affordable to many young people.”
But Coun Dave Griffin said his interpretation involved asking if there was a good mix of house types on an estate. “So my view of Penistone is different. All the estates I tend to visit have quite a good mix of different types of house. It might not be sufficient but at least there is a mix.”
Coun Barnard remarked on the number of large houses on the market which were unsold for years and said some were owned by people who wanted to move to somewhere smaller but could not.
Coun John Wilson added: “It always seems to be biased towards the developer because we will allow them to put a business case forward which substantiates their plans.”
Coun Rusby said developers were often allowed to reduce the level of affordable housing by offering to build it on another site. “Where is this mystical site and does anybody follow up how much affordable housing goes on it? We never know where these other sites are. We just let it go through.”
She reminded members that Penistone was designated for executive-type housing because planners wanted to encourage industry and executives wanted nice places to live “so they build posh houses here.”
Coun Barnard said the fact that people lived here did not mean they set up business here.
The council is to invite Barnsley’s affordable housing officer to their next meeting to discuss the issues.
- The Cycle Penistone project is still alive, even though the rental unit by the Trans Pennine Trail has closed, Ms Slater said. Barnsley Council finance workers were looking at the financial aspects of grants from the council. Coun Wilson called for a report to allow the council to decide what to do about the changes. “We need to be seen to be looking at this sensibly and see if we want to get some funds back.”
- An open day for the countryside skills project funded by the Council is planned for April. Four of the trainees in the first group are expected to gain nationally-recognised qualifications, including one who had been written off by almost everybody.
- Details of a plan for a “clean and tidy” group between Penistone Area Council and parish and town councils in the area will be thrashed out at a workshop next month.
- A scheme to help youngsters build confidence and gain skills through work experience and volunteering will also be commissioned later in the year. Coun Wilson suggested a Dragon’s Den scheme where groups of youngsters were offered small amounts of money to kick start entrepreneurial projects.
- The Council is to go into the publishing business. Members voted – with some reservations – for a free-distribution magazine which will report on what officers call “the great things happening locally” through the Area Council, Ward Alliance and neighbourhood networks.