Cllr James Hockney represents Waterbeach Ward on South Cambridgeshire District Council
One area of housing that is frequently overlooked and that could help significantly with the urgent and pressing housing crisis – is local connection housing.
What is local connection housing you may ask? Typically it is development on what is known as an ‘Exception Site’ and it provides an opportunity for landowners and developers of affordable housing to build houses in areas where planning permission for such development would not usually be considered. Those with a local connection are placed at the front of the queue.
Such developments usually consist of about 10 to 25 dwellings as determined by local need. Local planning authorities are increasingly relaxing their policies in respect of exception site development. This is being influenced by guidance contained within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which the Government issued recently.
Local connection is all about your links to an area. Typically to be able to apply for local connection housing you must meet one of the following criteria;
(1) You live in the area.
(2) You have close family in the area.
(3) You work in the area.
But it can also include having a connection with the area for another special reason.
The last government put protections in place through secondary legislation to ensure that members of the Armed Forces were not disqualified from social housing through a local connection or a residency test.
Many people are trapped with no realistic hope of having a local home. This is because they cannot afford to buy or rent and at the same time do not have a sufficient priority on the council housing waiting list. All too many people fall through this gap in provision and this is why I believe local connection housing is so important.
In my own District Ward of Waterbeach we have seen two local connection housing schemes come forward in recent years. One was through a Housing Association. The other was significant as it came about due to South Cambridgeshire District Council setting up a limited company called Ermine Street Housing to provide different housing options.
This is significant as it now means councils can be an additional provider of local connection homes. It means local connection housing can be provided without always the need for an ‘exception site’ to be found.
I saw for myself the dream come true for many in my community and we must make sure local government takes advantage of these opportunities wherever possible.