Councillors split on move to sell land for housing

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LAND at Whitby’s Helredale and St Peter’s will be sold off to Yorkshire Coast Homes in a move that split senior councillors this week.

Whitby’s representatives on Scarborough Borough Council (SBC), Couns Jane Kenyon and David Chance, voted against the disposal of the open space after saying they had to back the need for public open space but were outvoted by the rest of the Cabinet at a meeting on Tuesday.

The decision now means work on building 105 houses – 91 of which will be classed as affordable – across the sites of Helredale playing fields and St Peter’s Road, could start as soon as August as the scheme has to be completed by March 2015 to meet funding requirements.

Coun Jane Kenyon said: “I have always fought for open space but one can’t deny the need for affordable housing in Whitby.

“Local families striving to create a home for themselves is well documented as is the fact that private sector renting is 15% cheaper for the same house in Scarborough than it is in Whitby.

“But the community of Whitby at large are very protective of this piece of land.

“The balance has got to be what is the gain and with that I am still punting for it to be a green open field.”

Coun David Chance added: “I have great difficulty with this myself in so far as the people of Whitby, every time a house comes up there are 60 applications.

“I know the strength of feeling regarding this piece of land and it is intense.”

But fellow councillors followed Coun Derek Bastiman who said: “I see no reason under the sun why this land should not be sold for development when there is such a shortage of affordable housing in the Whitby area.

“It would be wrong of us, as elected members not to support this application.

“We have got a once and for all opportunity to provide some much-needed homes in the Whitby area. I for one welcome this report and move it without any hesitation whatsoever.”

The sale of land to Yorkshire Coast Homes (YCH) had been agreed in principle back in 2008 but was brought back before the council because of the level of public objection.

Ninety-seven objections were received with 94 people signing a standard letter arguing Helredale playing fields had been used by generations of families for more than 60 years.

They were also supportive of a bid which has been made by Helredale Neighbourhood Council (HNC) to have the land listed as an asset of community value under the new Localism Bill.

Other objections felt SBC had misled the public and land on St Peter’s was the only area of green space kids could play away from a road and building would impact on privacy.

Whitby Town Council had also “agreed to object in the strongest terms”.

But a council report said: “Cabinet must weigh up the benefits of affordable housing against retention of the land as open space.

“There is almost always a balance between conflicting factors where a development is being considered. In this case the issue is whether the loss of open space is greater than the benefits that will accrue from the development.”

YCH is paying £380,000 for the land, equivalent to £5,000 per house plot, and is getting its money for the development from the Homes and Communities Agency but a condition of that is all homes need to be done by March 2015.

The report also states that over 670 applicants on the housing waiting list had registered interest in the east side of Whitby yet in just under 12 months only 68 houses became available for let in Whitby and only 10 of those were in the Helredale and St Peter’s area.