Alnwick is a popular and attractive place to live and retire to, accessible to Tyneside and with an enviable natural and built heritage which means there is a healthy demand for housing from outside the area as well as demand from an anticipated growth in the number of households locally.
This demand for housing historically has not been fully met by supply of new homes. This has led to an affordability problem in the plan area certainly since the early 2000’s. The Neighbourhood Plan will play a key role in ensuring that sufficient housing land is delivered to meet housing requirements identified in the Northumberland Core Strategy in the period up to 2025, and local housing needs identified by housing needs surveys. It will seek to guide new housing development to sustainable locations in Alnwick. It will also seek to target the use of previously developed land where available and at densities that make the most efficient use of land whilst respecting the character and scale of the surroundings. A broad mix of housing types suitable for different households will contribute to the creation of a mixed and sustainable community.
The objectives for housing in the plan are:
- To provide sufficient land to meet Alnwick and Denwick’s housing requirements to 2025 particularly the need for affordable housing
- To provide a choice of sizes, types and tenure of quality housing particularly creating opportunities for young people and the elderly.
What level of housing growth should we be catering for?
It is difficult in the absence of a specific housing needs assessment for Alnwick to accurately predict the housing requirement for Alnwick and Denwick. However, in addition to meeting local housing needs we also need to provide for open market demand. Failure to do that will put more pressure on existing housing from retirees and other in-migrants making it less accessible to the local population. We need to agree a level of supply that will meet local needs and is sustainable in terms of Alnwick’s social, economic and environmental context.
The County Core Strategy has looked at 3 options – maintaining existing housing levels; lower housing levels and a targeted increase. As evidence suggests that needs were not wholly met in the past, only a targeted increase is feasible. Working at the upper end of the Core Strategy range would require around 50 dwellings a year over the plan period – a total of 700-750 dwellings.
The distribution and location of housing
Alnwick is a sustainable location for housing as identified in the County Core Strategy. In the past previously developed land has contributed significantly to supply of land. However, this will reduce in the plan period although school sites when vacated will assist. Therefore more greenfield sites will be required. Constraints in terms of historic landscapes to the north of Alnwick mean that most of the development possibilities are to the south and east of the town.
Sites with planning permission and identified in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment will provide approximately 2/3rds of the required houses. Options of land at Greensfield – (south of the town) and east of Allerburn Lea north of Alnmouth Road are the most feasible for development.
Ensuring choice of housing
As well as ensuring the quantity is right we have to ensure that the plan delivers choice in the size, type and tenure of housing. If the plan simply leaves delivery to the market to decide, the type of housing will be dictated by what sells most easily. It is suggested that the plan includes an enabling policy that encourages a range of provision.
The ratio of house prices to income remains at in excess of 8:1 and for the majority of the population housing is simply not affordable to buy. If not responded to the affordability problem could result in difficulties in retaining younger economically active population and ultimately in recruiting staff. The Plan will have to increase the amount of affordable housing and seek to deliver smaller housing units appealing to the younger and first time buyers. Affordable housing is usually secured through a subsidy to enable the price or rent of the house to be substantially lower than the prevailing market price or rent locally. To achieve this we are proposing that all sites over 10 dwellings should provide at least 35% of the dwellings as affordable. However, as a lot of housing sites are less than 10 units we are also proposing that all sites below 10 dwellings pay a financial contribution which will be applied by the County Council to the provision of affordable housing in Alnwick.
Delivering quality in housing
Quality of design in new housing has not been particularly successful in recent years especially in the larger estates built on the edge of the town. We have been more successful with smaller brownfield sites within the town. Housing in the plan period is likely to involve more housing on the edge of the town and we need to ensure this is designed and landscaped to a high standard to integrate it into the town and establish a ‘sense of place’. We are proposing that the plan introduces a strong policy requiring design principles to be met and for housing to be built to recognised design standards.
Making more effective use of existing housing stock
Alnwick has a particular issue with quite a high number of vacant dwellings and under occupation of dwellings. If we can make more effective use of the housing we have it means we will need less new housing in the area. Ensuring a good range of housing will help ensure for example that people under occupying homes may ‘downsize’ to homes of a more appropriate size. We are also proposing however that the plan encourages the acquisition and refurbishment of vacant dwellings and residential space for example above shops in the town centre & makes this available for sale or rent.
Evidence Base available to draw on
- Strategic Housing Market Assessment
- Alnwick Housing Needs Assessment
- 5 Year Land Supply
- Strategic Housing Land Availability Study
- Northumberland Annual Monitoring Report
- Housing Position Statement 2010 Alnwick Area Community Forum
- Housing Assessment Northumberland (Couttie Assocs – Expected April)
- Gypsy and traveller Accommodation assessment
Key Issues – emerging already
- What is the level and type of housing need in the next 5 years
- What is a sustainable level of growth for Alnwick as a main service centre
- Need to provide affordable housing for the young and low income families to help keep young and working families in Alnwick (6)
- Need young persons supported housing units with live in helpers providing help, guidance and advice
- Need for larger social rented family units rather than flats (2)
- Housing for the elderly
- Social housing and jobs would help the town to grow (2)
- Level of executive houses being built in Alnwick – need for balance
- Housing should be provided in response to actual needs not housebuilders perceptions
- There should be provision for the homeless particularly in younger 16-20 age group (2)
- Need to complete developments already started and build out brownfield sites before building more housing (3)
- Housing developments should not result in loss of open spaces (2)
- Need to make effective use of existing housing stock (2)
- Need to ensure housing development can be properly serviced eg with parking provision, open space, road access (4)
- Need for housing and employment in the area to give a sense of purpose and community
- Housing growth should not go ahead without increasing local employment (2)
- Education ideas and housing proposals should be developed together
- Need for residents only parking for streets close to town centre (4)
- Flats above shops should be brought into use.
Areas of potential overlap with other topic areas
- Assessing the appropriate level of new housing in terms of employment and service capacity (Economy and Employment and Community Facilities)
- The need for housing to cross-subsidise a new high school / education campus (Education)
- Quality of new housing (Heritage)
- The sustainability of housing (Environment and Transport)
Factors constraining options
- Overall development strategy for Northumberland in emerging LDF
- Physical development constraints
- Marketability and deliverability- strength of markets currently
- Infrastructure/Services capacity
- Potential of new sites