Stevenage Borough Council planning £1bn investment for new houses in the town

PUBLISHED: 11:42 18 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:45 18 June 2019

The proposed developments form part of SBC's plan to unveil 550 new homes by 2025. Picture: Stevenage Borough Council

The proposed developments form part of SBC's plan to unveil 550 new homes by 2025. Picture: Stevenage Borough Council

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Plans for three new housing projects have been approved, with Stevenage Borough Council expecting more than 50 new homes to be built by 2020 as part of a 30-year £1 billion investment.

The new developments, which got the green light last week, are located at Shephall Way, North Road and Symonds Green.

Both Shephall Way and Symonds Green - which will provide 38 new homes in total - are expected to be affordable and social rented housing.

North Road will be a private development of 21 apartments whose sales will contribute towards the cost of constructing social houses.

As part of its housing development programme, Stevenage Borough Council is preparing to unveil more than 550 council-developed homes by 2025.

Council developed homes in Archer Road, Hertford Road, Kilner Close, Drury Lane and Twin Foxes have provided 80 new homes since 2014.

But there has always been mixed reception to council-developed houses.

Residents strongly protested the decision to demolish much-loved community pubs in Archer Road (The King Pin) and Rockingham Way (Twin Foxes, the first pub opened in the new town).

According to Councillor Jeanette Thomas - executive member for housing, health and older people - building more affordable social housing is the council's priority.

She said: "Over the next 30 years, we'll be directly investing £1bn in housing in Stevenage.

"Stevenage Borough Council continues to fulfil its obligation to provide quality, affordable housing for the people of the town.

"Our ongoing major refurbishment contract will also see us improving existing council properties so that they remain sustainable, safe and comfortable."

Council leader Sharon Taylor is pleased that the council's newly proposed homes are spread throughout the town.

She said: "It's great that we are increasing the pace of our delivery, consulting local communities and making sure that we are building throughout the town.

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"Very few dispute the need for greater numbers of affordable homes, but finding places to put them will sometimes divide opinion."

Richard Gainsford, who has lived in Shephall Way since 2001, is one resident who is angry with the proposed houses on Shephall Way.

SBC initally ran into difficulties with the development, with complaints submitted by residents from the street and Herts County Council's highways department.

Formal objections were raised over accessibility for existing properties, parking and the impact on traffic on the surrounding highways.

But some of Shephall Way's residents were also dismayed to see the plans approved so quickly, despite their own clear protestation.

Both Richard and an arboricultural and conservation manager had also raised concerns about the development's impact on Love's Wood, a woodland in close proximity to Shephall Way.

Planning permission was granted in April, but SBC had to buy No. 15 Shephall Way for £411,000 to ensure the development could get the green light.

An SBC spokesperson described this move as a "strategic acquisition", and said it was relatively commonplace for the council to purchase homes. In the last financial year, SBC purchased 17 properties.

Richard says that he and his wife would have never moved to Stevenage if they would have known about the problems they now face.

He described communicating with the council as a "farce", and said SBC seem to be building wherever they want - while residents have to jump through hoops and are often still turned down.

Richard had tried to get some trees removed from his garden 10 years ago, but had to sue the council to get this done.

"How many more trees and natural habitats are they going to tear down in order to build more flats and houses?" he said.

"I am really angry with the underhand way they [SBC] go about things. Where will it all stop?"

These latest planning approvals take the total number of approved homes waiting to be constructed to 278. A further 40 homes are being built and are due to be completed later this year.

The council's latest commitment to social housing is likely to be well received by the 1,860 people who are currently on SBC's housing register.

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