Affordable homes from Colin Kreidewolf, Chairman, Ipswich Borough Assets Ltd; Councillor, Westgate Ward, Ipswich Borough Council
I read with interest the article by John Norman on affordable homes [Issue 219] and have a lot of sympathy with what was being said about how permitted development rights are used in the conversion of disused office facilities without the requirement for planning permission. Where this permission is used without regard to standards is concerning.
This has been highlighted in Harlow for example where 12 office blocks have been converted into flats of a poor standard, where neighbouring Councils have sent their hard to place families because of the relatively low cost accommodation. The local MP observed that these converted office blocks used to house homeless people are ‘ghettos’ that should be ‘closed down once and for all’.
However, where I take exception is the reference to the purchase of the former BT office complex in Bibb Way by Ipswich Borough Assets where John indicates that ‘there will be no requirement for affordable homes’ as if we are trying to avoid creating affordable homes.
The purchase of the BT office centre was announced in the Ipswich Star on January 23 this year where it was made quite clear that the complex would be converted into 79 affordable homes and that these would be sold onto the Council’s Housing revenue account and made available to people on our Council House waiting list.
These flats and maisonettes will be converted to a high standard like the rest of the Council’s housing stock because we do not have the aim of making a profit but rather of delivering homes for the people of Ipswich. A private developer had put in an application to Building Control to convert the office complex into over 100 units whereas we are providing much more space and are only creating 79 units.
The rest of the site provides us with the opportunity to build up to an additional 60 units and we will endeavour to deliver as many of these as possible also for the Council’s housing revenue account subject to the requirements of the planning department.
A further bonus is that we are intending to build specialist accommodation for disabled people the type of which is often never delivered by private developers. Ipswich Borough Council is committed to maintaining good quality housing stock in its portfolio.
For the April issue I had merged two articles into one, and in doing so I may have created a misimpression. Ipswich Borough Assets are developing the former BT offices in Bibb Way and, in doing so, will create 79 affordable homes. These homes will be sold onto the Council’s Housing revenue account and made available to people on the Council’s housing waiting list.
Before the Bibb Way complex was purchased by IBA, a private developer had shown an interest and had developed plans to convert the building into over 100 units. The IBA conversion will create homes, each of which will be, on average, 30% bigger internally, some adapted for use by disabled residents.
I am happy to make clear that this particular development will exceed the requirements for Affordable Homes.