To consider any questions by Members under paragraph 19.3 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution, notice of which have been duly given.
One question had been received from a Member in accordance with paragraph 19.3 of Part 2 (The Council and District Council Members) of the Constitution.
Question 1: Cllr Dr Canet
‘Portfolio Holder Decision number 13 (2018/19) committed to expend £12,840 (+VAT) from the Section 106 affordable housing planning gains to commission a housing stock and needs analysis for older people.
This was approved on the grounds that ‘With a growing older population, it is proposed to undertake an additional and more detailed study to map older people’s accommodation across the District by size/type/tenure and to assess accommodation needs at ward level going forward in to the future…to better plan for older people’s accommodation needs into the future.’
Portfolio Holder decision signed by Cllrs Lowe and Piper on 28 December 2018.
Could the Council advise
a) Whether this analysis has yet taken place
b) If it was not proceeded with why, and was this decision reported back to the Councillors?
c) Was the earmarked money expended on another project?
d) How do the Council intend to accurately assess and provide the older population’s housing accommodation needs?
Response of the Leader of the Council:
Thank you Cllr Dr Canet, in response to your question the analysis has not yet taken place, although there is already a considerable amount of information available on these requirements.
He understood that the Portfolio Holder at the time was made aware of the delay which was due to a number of national and local changes. This included the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which was subsequently updated in 2019, and then several changes at national Government level and also a planned Social Housing White Paper, which had been delayed several times, but officers thought was key to understanding before going ahead with commissioning a survey. This white paper was now due later in 2020. The District Council had also just taken part in the County Council’s Affordable Housing Select Committee and would be of likely value to also await the outcome of that work before finalising the project brief for such a study. As it was a one-off pot of funding secured to undertake a study with no future such funding available, officers had wanted to make sure that when the money was spent it gained the most useful information possible and all of these changes had to be thought through properly to make sure the work was done. Updates were not typically given, but he could request that Officers send out update emails. He understood that the Housing Policy Manager had given previous assurances that Councillor Dr Canet would be invited to participate in the project, once it commenced, both in her role as a District Councillor and with the added input of the Sevenoaks Seniors’ Action Forum.
Which, he responded, answered the next query that no, the money had not been spent elsewhere and was still set aside for this study with the prospective consultants still on board.
Finally you have asked how the Council intends to accurately assess and provide the older population’s housing accommodation needs – as you are aware - full Council agreed the current Housing Strategy in July 2017 and it set out priorities relating to the provision of suitable housing and related support services for older people. Housing for older people forms a routine and significant part of every housing development considered and explored.
The 2016 Sevenoaks Local Housing Needs Survey also provided a considerable amount of information housing requirements in the district and as with all documents of this nature, the survey forms part of the evidence base for the emerging local plan and a material consideration in the determination of planning applications.
Supplementary question: Cllr Dr Canet
Councillor Dr Canet advised that she would like to take the offer of email updates and her supplementary question referred to the expected timescale.
Response of the Leader of the Council:
The Leader responded that there was already a large amount of information currently used when determining planning applications and available in the already mentioned documents which included: the majority of older people (67.4%) wanted to stay in their own homes with help and support when needed and around a quarter (24.4%) would consider buying a property on the open market; and sheltered accommodation and Extra Care housing were both considered attractive options, with slightly more people preferring the option to purchase rather than rent.