Refused Newport planning application - to build homes for local homeless people - to be resubmitted
Linc Cymru (Linc) and Newport City Council secured Welsh Government funding to build the new permanent homes on the underused part of Hill Street Car Park in the City’s St Woolos neighbourhood.
The housing association then applied to build 12 low-energy, modular homes for local people living in temporary accommodation. The new homes would provide much-needed longer-term homes for a dozen local residents currently waiting to be housed by the Council.
But in December the Council’s own planning committee voted by 5-4 to refuse the application even though the Council’s officers had recommended the proposal was approved.
This decision has left Linc in a difficult position, given the modular homes will still be delivered to the site in early February (from February 7), to ensure the tenants can move in as soon as possible.
Linc began the construction of the Hill Street site in September 2021 using ‘Permitted Development Rights’ granted by Welsh Government allowing certain types of building work to be carried out without planning permission before the start of a development. Linc is still required to secure planning permission within 12 months of starting on site.
While Linc will continue building works (under those Permitted Development Rights), at the same time it is also preparing a revised planning application which seeks to address concerns raised by planning committee members; that the new homes would ‘fail to preserve or enhance the St Woolos Conservation Area’.
Responding to those concerns, the design team has made changes to the proposals including introducing green walls, additional landscaping and by redesigning the perimeter walls and railings, as well as the bin and bike stores to make them more traditional in appearance. The proposal already includes hedging and additional tree planting and is also set back from Hill Street to avoid obstructing any views.
Like the original plans, the revised proposal is for a two-storey building with 12 one-person, permanent apartments with decking and balcony space. The new building is located on the eastern side of the Hill Street Car Park, retaining 28 of the existing car parking spaces to the west.
Linc is working in partnership with award-winning Zed Pods, a modular construction company which has designed and built new, reduced-carbon housing schemes across the UK. The new homes are currently being built by Zed Pods in a factory before being delivered to the site and installed.
The new homes are high-quality, low-carbon, low-cost and extremely quick to build once on site, which means there is less disruption to the local community during the construction period.
This way of building new homes is referred to as Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), and is key to the Welsh Government’s drive to build 20,000 new affordable, low-carbon homes for rent between 2021 and 2026.
The new homes are super-insulated and consume extremely low levels of energy with rooftop solar panels and solar-assisted heat pumps providing low-cost, low energy hot water and heating and low energy bills for tenants.
According to Newport City Council there are 9,000 people on its housing waiting list, with 388 people living in costly temporary accommodation. The proposal would provide high-quality, permanent and secure homes for 12 of those homeless people.
The Council’s housing officer who supported Linc’s application said: “I support these proposals which will provide much needed long term accommodation for households that are currently in temporary homelessness accommodation. During the pandemic there has been a significant increase in people approaching the local authority for assistance with housing and homelessness.
“Once a household has been placed in temporary homelessness accommodation there are currently limited options for them to move on to long term permanent accommodation. There is not sufficient housing association stock in Newport to meet this need and private rented sector properties are increasingly unaffordable. This development is an important part of local authority plans to increase the supply of affordable social housing in Newport.”
Linc’s Executive Director Property and Commercial, Louise Attwood said: “The homeless crisis in Wales is acute in Newport. We were obviously disappointed our application to provide secure, high quality permanent homes for 12 vulnerable people using innovative technology on an underused car park was refused.
“But we have listened to what councillors and our neighbours had to say about the original application and have made some important changes to our application to seek to address those concerns.
“I really want to reassure residents that the new homes are really well-designed, attractive and high-quality. This development will be extremely well-managed.”
Thomas Northway, Chairman of Zed Pods, said: “We are delighted to be working with Linc to deliver our first scheme in Wales. As an offsite, zero-carbon modular house builder, the Newport scheme will demonstrate how net-zero not only helps abate climate change but also reduces ongoing costs for the occupants. Given our specialism in net-zero social homes this is a critical benefit for end users who are low-income households. These safe and secured homes will deliver tangible and lasting success for vulnerable households”