Five Oaks Lane developer bids to ditch social housing pledge

Five Oaks Lane sign at the entrance to Five Oaks Lane in Chigwell. A Compulsory Purchase order (CPO)

Five Oaks Lane sign at the entrance to Five Oaks Lane in Chigwell. A Compulsory Purchase order (CPO) is being enacted at Five Oaks Lane tomorrow at midday and from then, Five Oaks Lane will be closed off. - Credit: Vickie Flores

Pressure is mounting on the council to reject a developer’s bid to backtrack on an agreement to build social housing – days after homes were bulldozed to make way for the development.

Last week residents in Five Oaks Lane, Chigwell, told the Recorder they had nowhere to go after their homes were taken over by Countryside Homes, which plans to build 425 new houses on the site.

The former homeowners said yesterday (Weds) they had still not received a penny for their properties, despite them being officially taken over last Wednesday.

And planning papers reveal the developer wants to go back on its pledge to build more than 100 housing association homes.

Former Five Oaks residents said it was an “insult” and urged Countryside to ditch the bid. Steve Bulled said: “It’s disgraceful. It will end up being an exclusive development, a gated site with gyms and stuff – forget the social housing.”

And Annette Harris said she thought the application was “wrong”.

“It’s not acceptable – it’s messing with people’s lives and feelings.”

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She said her family – including her five-year-old niece – was now living in a Holiday Inn, with the Easter break delaying the search for a new home.

“It’s just one big nightmare,” she added.

The documents show Countryside submitted an application in November last year to discharge the condition in its original planning permission, granted in 2001.

The developer initially agreed to provide 35 per cent affordable housing – 149 homes – made up of 106 subsidised homes on behalf of a provider, four low-cost properties for sale and 39 shared ownership units.

But now Countryside wants to vary the agreement so all 149 homes are shared ownership – meaining they could be fully sold off as private homes within just three years.

Cllr Gwyneth Deakins said: “Shared ownership is better than nothing, but it would be regrettable if that’s all we can get.

“The longer these issues drag on, the more developers can wriggle. If they wanted retail properties they should have said so.”

Cllr Muhammed Javed, cabinet member for housing, said he would prefer to see “long-term rented homes” but welcomed all house-building.

A spokesman for Countryside and housing association L&Q said: “Shared ownership creates home ownership opportunities for those who are priced out of the private market.

“It offers an affordable and alternative way onto the housing ladder by offering a share in a new home that they may otherwise be unable to afford.”

A spokesman for Redbridge Council said all the former residents had been found accommodation.