Repayment to county council for Barley Homes branded 'ridiculous' by councillor
A decision to repay £250,000 to a county council which pulled out of a jointly-owned housing developer last week has been branded ‘ridiculous’.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council are due to pay back the money to Suffolk County Council after it cut ties with Barley Homes on Tuesday, September 11.
But Cllr Diane Hind, chairman of the borough’s overview and scrutiny committee, said that she ‘feels strongly’ that the county council should not be repaid after its decision to bypass Barley Homes during the sale of Wamil Court, in Mildenhall, left the developer unable to build a single house since its formation in 2016.
“I don’t think we should pay the £250,000 because it means that Suffolk County Council will walk away being fully recompensed when it’s absolutely their fault that Barley Homes hasn’t put a spade in the ground up until now,” she said.
“Had they sold Wamil Court to Barley Homes at the price originally agreed we would have started work on it and we would have delivered urgently needed housing so it seems ridiculous that we’re now helping them out.”
She added that the county’s decision and resulting stagnation of the venture was ‘disappointing’.
“I feel frustrated that we weren’t able to get this off the ground,” she said.
“It’s difficult but on the other hand it has worked elsewhere and we’ve all got to find ways to deliver affordable housing because the demand for it is not going to go away.”
The interim business plan for Barley Homes says that for the two current sites in Haverhill, the developer will now take a 10 per cent profit, while an average of up to the maximum land value will go to the county council as the landowner.
On Tuesday, Cllr Sara Mildmay-White, portfolio holder for housing, said the developer has a predicted income of £1.4 million over the next four years.
“I’m absolutely confident that we’re doing the right thing with moving forward with Barley Homes,” she said.
“We’re disappointed that Suffolk County Council didn’t wish to go through with us but I think we can probably move more quickly now that we are in sole control.”
Suffolk County Council was approached for comment.