A survey was conducted by the Parish Council in 2004 which established the need for affordable housing in Pebmarsh. This was partly due to the fact that some of the smaller houses and cottages in Pebmarsh had been extended and converted into 3 and 4 bed houses, thus depriving the village of affordable small starter homes suitable for young local persons, young families and other eligible local people all with an affordable housing need. The council took the view that we needed to retain and provide affordable housing for people with a local connection in order that the village would not stagnate and to facilitate the benefits of the extended family.
The Parish Council then initiated the Affordable Housing Project and Suffolk Housing association agreed to take on the project. Braintree District Council approved the plans for the project in Dec 2007. Iceni Homes who are Suffolk Housing Society’s development agency, oversaw the project and building work started in 2008. All tenancies were allocated to local people in Sept 2009.
A Section 106 agreement was inserted into the planning application which, in the main served 2 purposes:
1. All housing to be available only to people with a local connection and to be allocated according to the 6 criteria of the S106 agreement in priority order.
2. On completion, The Developer will make a contribution to the Parish Council towards Play Equipment.
The Parish Council made it known at various meetings during the project that these would be affordable houses only for people with a local connection who also had a housing need.
The Parish Council also offered to assist Parishioners with the local connection part of their application to ensure that their Local Connection was presented in the best possible light and also advised parishioners that in order to apply for an affordable home, they had to be registered on the Braintree District Council Housing Register before applying.
Early in 2009, Braintree District Council introduced a new application process for available housing called the Choice Based Lettings System. This system was a partnership between 7 district Councils and would make any property that became available in any of the 7 districts available for anyone in those 7 districts to bid for. The bidding would be open for one week. In the case of the 10 new affordable houses/appartments in Pebmarsh, the Choice Based lettings system would clearly state that these houses/appartments were only for people with a local connection. Despite this, over 430 applications were received and it appears that only about 89 of these applications stated that they had a local connection.
10 of these applications satisfied the 1st priority criteria of the S106 Local connection agreement and were subsequently awarded the 10 available tenancies.
The Parish Council’s involvement in this process was as follows:
1. The Affordable homes being built were all two bedrooms units and more. Under Braintree District Council Housing rules, this would have excluded all single persons from applying. We asked for under occupation to considered and our request was granted. All properties are under occupied but all are occupied by local people.
2. We helped to clarify that in determining the allocation of the properties, the Local connection would take precedence over housing need. Again, it was re confirmed to us that this would be the case.
3. The Parish council would help verify the Local connection of prospective tenants before the tenancies were allocated. The day after the bidding ended, I received a short list by phone of 10 prospective tenants and was asked to verify their local connection. I immediatly contacted the available councillors and asked to help verify their local connection. Cllr Sue Rawlinson was away that day and Cllr.Harry Anderson was not available. I spoke to Cllr. Holder who helped verify and he did not comment on Jenny Holder’s connection as he declared a personal Interest. Cllr Holder was at his son’s wedding at the time. I then spoke to Cllr. J. Fenner who helped verify and he chose not comment on the two applicants, Natalie and Sharon Smith as he declared a personal interest. I reported back to BDC and verified 9 applicants and could not confirm or deny the final 10th applicant.
I would like to, at this stage, state that it must have been very hard for the two councillors who had a personal interest not to disclose to their families that they knew who was on the short list and I would say that it was probably one of the most difficult things for a parent to do to keep quiet and see their children suffer the anxiety and waiting till the official announcement was made 4 days later by Suffolk Housing.