Woking Borough Council
Civic OfficesGloucester SquareWokingSurreyGU21 6YL
Telephone: 01483 755855
Evolution held two informal public events in January 2013 to introduce themselves, and to get feedback from local residents and interested parties on the emerging development proposals. Residents may previously have seen their proposals at public consultation days held in March and September 2009.
Woking Borough Council announced on 14 November 2012 Evolution as its preferred bidder to build a mixed tenure housing development, north of Moor Lane, Woking.
Providing affordable housing is one of Woking Borough Council's highest priorities and 'Priority Homes - Putting Affordable Housing First' is a Housing Private Finance Initiative (PFI) project to help meet this need.
This project provides a great opportunity to deliver much-needed affordable housing for the Borough, so we are pursuing this option with enthusiasm.
A Private Finance Initiative or PFI is one form of public private partnership that is used for projects that require a lot of money. PFI has been used for many years to successfully build new schools, roads, prisons and hospitals. Since 1999, PFI has enabled councils to secure a large amount of private money which can be used to build new homes or improve existing ones. This is called Housing PFI.
There are tight controls on how councils can raise and spend money. At present, there are few ways a council can raise enough money to pay for the cost of building new council homes on its own.
PFI is a government programme to bring private investment into social housing by allowing local authorities to work with a partnership of specialist organisations to build new homes or improve properties already owned by the Council. This partnership usually includes:
a Housing Association, Registered Social Landlord (RSL) or housing provider
a construction company
The partnership is also known as the PFI Contractor. The PFI Contractor usually enters into a 25 to 30-year contract with a local authority to design, finance, build, manage and maintain the properties to a high standard as specified by the Council.
The PFI Contractor is paid a fixed fee for these services and can lose some of its fee if the properties do not meet the standards.
A PFI project can be good for a local authority because it means that a council can make use of their partners' areas of expertise, such as building homes or raising money. The risk involved in building and financing new homes within budget and on time is taken by the contractor. If a project does not meet the standards, the contractor does not get the full payment agreed.
Currently, there is a greater need for affordable homes than there is supply.
House prices in Woking are higher than the national average and this means that average incomes in the Borough are not enough for people to buy a family home in the area.
Research carried out in 2003 by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed that Woking is one of 40 least affordable local authorities to buy a home. Over 75% of working households in Woking, where the household representative is aged from 20 to 39, are unable to afford a home at the lower end of the price scale, on household income alone. This puts even more pressure on the affordable homes coming on to the market and means continued demand for homes in the Borough.
Over the last few years, Woking Borough Council has introduced many measures to increase the supply of affordable homes in the Borough. These include:
Working with private developers and housing associations to build homes which are let to households on Hometrak.
Working with owners of empty homes to bring them back into use.
Working pro-actively to prevent homelessness through our Housing Options team.
Reviewing our Core Strategy to require higher levels of affordable housing on new development sites.
Despite all these initiatives, 499 new affordable homes are needed each year, for the next five years, to meet the growing housing need in the Borough.
Woking has secured approval for £40.5 million worth of PFI funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG). Following submission of the Outline Business Case (OBC), approved in 2008, the Council has managed a competitive process to select a PFI contractor partner to build the homes and then manage and maintain them for an agreed period. As a result of this bidding process, in November 2012, the Council was pleased to announce Evolution as the preferred bidder.
The OBC provided supporting evidence to justify why Woking's PFI bid is the best way to provide at least 190 affordable rented homes in the Borough and that there are no better or cheaper ways of providing these much needed homes for local families.
Evolution's proposal is to build around 224 predominantly family homes which will be let at affordable social rents to applicants on the Council's Housing Register and will be allocated through Hometrak, the Council's Choice Based Lettings system. The homes will be part of a mixed tenure development of 371 homes, built on a 9.5 hectare site north of Moor Lane in Westfield.
Only once the homes have been built and are occupied by the tenants will the PFI funding be paid in monthly instalments to the Council by the Government over the 25-year period of the contract. The Council will then use this funding, plus a council contribution, to pay Evolution, the PFI contractor.
Tenants of these new homes will be Thames Valley Housing Association tenants not Woking Borough Council tenants. Tenants will not be able to buy these homes and therefore they will remain as affordable housing in the Borough.
The new homes will be built on a single site in the Borough. The site, in Westfield, has been identified following a thorough review of all the available options. The site, north of Moor Lane has been reserved for future housing development for a long time. The boundary for the site was adopted in the 1993 Local Plan.
There will be a range of property types and sizes in line with the Borough's demand for housing but most will be family homes. The development will be a mix of social rented and private sale housing.
The exact details of the homes will not be decided until a detailed planning application is submitted in early 2013. It is hoped that building on the site to the north of Moor Lane will improve the local environment, create a sustainable community, as well as provide much needed housing for people of the Borough.
In June 2008, the Council advertised for a private sector partner to take this development forward.
Eight responses were received from potential partners (bidders) and after various stages of selection prescribed by European legislation and a very thorough competitive process two bidders remained:
a partnership between Thames Valley Housing Association and Kier
a partnership between Southern Housing Association and Wates
Members of the public had the opportunity to view detailed proposals from the two remaining bidders at public consultation days held in March and September 2009.
In November 2009, an application for access onto the site was granted planning permission by the Planning Committee. In February 2010, an application was made for the exchange of 387 sq m of Common Land to facilitate one of the access points and, in July 2010, a Public Inquiry into the exchange of Common Land took place. The application was refused.
On 25 October 2011 an application was made for the release of 387 sq m of Common Land in exchange for 1174 sq m of replacement land to facilitate one of the access points. This application addressed concerns raised in the initial application made in February 2010. After another Public Inquiry in July 2012, the application was refused.
Final tenders were submitted by the remaining bidders in July 2012 and after a very thorough evaluation process the Council was pleased to announce Evolution as the preferred bidder in November 2012.
Evolution held two public exhibitions in January 2013 to gather feedback from local residents on their plans before submitting a detailed planning application. A copy of the exhibition boards displayed at these events can be seen here.
In early 2013 there will be a detailed planning phase during which any issues relating to the development will be addressed and designs worked up.
The Council will work closely with Evolution while they finalise their design and build the homes. After that they will manage and maintain the homes over the 25 year contract period.
The first new homes are likely to be ready for occupation in early 2015.
The risk of flooding on the development area is considered to represent a small part of the site, at its eastern edge. This area is likely to be set aside as public open space to minimise the risk of homes flooding.
As part of the detailed planning process, Evolution will have to demonstrate to the Environment Agency that development of the site does not increase the risk of flooding to other properties. We are aware of the concerns of local residents and will ensure these are addressed.
As part of the detailed planning process, discussions will take place with the County Highways Authority regarding access to the site, transport assessments and the likely impact on local roads. The County Highways Authority is likely to recommend measures to ensure that the access to the site is suitable and that the effect on local roads is acceptable in highway terms.
Drainage and water provision will be examined as part of the detailed planning process. It is quite likely that a drainage assessment will be required to ensure that any risk of flooding is minimised. The relevant agencies and authorities, including the Environment Agency and the water and sewerage authorities, will be consulted to ensure that drainage and water provision is sustainable and satisfactory.
As part of the detailed planning process, the relevant agencies and authorities, including the County Education Authority and the Surrey Primary Care Trust, will be consulted on these matters to ensure that any infrastructure needs such as these arising from the development will be met. Residents will also have the opportunity to comment on what they think will be needed as part of the consultation and detailed planning processes outlined below.
To ensure the success of the project, the Council and Evolution will communicate with local people at key stages in the planning process to give them ample opportunity to express any concerns and to influence the development of the Priority Homes site.
Throughout the project Evolution will hold public workshops, issue newsletters and provide web updates at key stages.
There will be a number of opportunities for you to be involved in the detailed planning process. These are set out in the Council's Statement of Community Involvement, which sets out how the local community and other interested people and organisations will be involved in planning applications, as well as in the preparation of the planning policy documents that are part of the Council's Local Development Framework now known as Woking 2027.
When the application is received, the Council will notify by letter those residents likely to be affected by the proposal, as well as place a notice on the site and in the local press, inviting views on the proposal. All the comments received will need to be addressed by the Council and reported to the Planning Committee before a decision is taken.
The Statement of Community Involvement is also available to view at the Council's Civic Offices, at libraries throughout the Borough and paper copies can be provided on request.
Subject to approval at each stage, the key dates for the project are as follows:
Bidders asked to submit Final Tender
Final Bids Received
Final Business Case (FBC) submitted to Communities and Local Government
The FBC provided summarised documentary evidence as to how the Contract achieved through the Competitive Dialogue process has met the objectives and key criteria developed stated in the Outline Business Case.
Preferred Bidder Announced
Detailed Planning Application submitted
Site preparation work starts
Building of the homes commences
First tenants move in
Please note: The above timetable may be subject to change.
If you have any comments regarding the Priority Homes project please contact us:
Woking Borough Council
Phone: 01483 755855
The following links to external websites may be of interest to you.