Councillors last week approved proposals that will allow a property developer to perform a U-turn on an agreement to provide affordable housing in Blairgowrie.
In November last year Miller Homes applied to Perth and Kinross Council for permission to remove 22 affordable homes from its development on Coupar Angus Road.
The Edinburgh-based company said it wanted to replace them with 20 mainstream housing units at the Woodland Park site, known as Rosemount Meadows, and cited a lack of available funding for affordable housing as the reason for the change of plan.
The developer offered to make a “commuted cash payment” to the council instead, which the firm states could be used to fund other housing projects. And, on Thursday last week, the local authority’s development management committee gave the application the green light.
The controversial Miller Homes development of nearly 90 homes was approved by the in 2011 and work got underway in May of the same year.
More than 30 people objected to the proposal, expressing concerns that the homes were too tightly packed and that trees would be adversely affected.
At the time the proposal to change the affordable housing element of the plans was first mooted, Councillor Caroline Shiers said she was unaware of a fall in demand for affordable homes and that the initial approval was given on the basis that the proposals included a percentage of such homes.
Councillor Shiers this week added: “I welcome the ‘commuted’ sum of money to be paid to make up for the affordable housing not being built on site and I know officers are looking into options for affordable housing in the Blairgowrie area.”
A spokesperson for Miller Homes said: “We are pleased that the amendment to our planning agreement for Rosemount Meadows has been approved. We are committed to providing affordable housing on developments where sector support and funding is available to do so.
“However, as there was no certainty of such funding availability for the affordable housing allocation at Rosemount Meadows, we decided, with the council’s active support, to bring forward an existing option on our planning agreement.”
One disappointed Blairgowrie resident said: “I work full-time and still find it difficult to find somewhere that we can afford with the space that my family needs, and had hoped that this development would provide a solution.”
Two letters of objection to the latest change were received, one of which said it was Miller Homes’ responsibility to meet the requirement and that the affordable housing was key to the previous approval.
Jim Bradley, chair of Blairgowrie and Rattray Community Council, said: “I am very surprised at this decision. There is a dire shortage of affordable housing in Blairgowrie and decisions like this only aggravate the situation.”