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Monday, October 1, 2012

Property firm aims to keep costs down at Darras Hall new housing estate

A PROPERTY company looking to build hundreds of homes on land close to an upmarket North East community has announced plans to make some of them ‘affordable’.

The Lugano Group, which is behind plans for 250 to 300 homes on land close to the exclusive Darras Hall estate, has said it plans to create a community land trust in order to keep costs down for buyers.

However, a group of local residents which is opposing the development has claimed the company is simply seeking to win support for its project and that there will be hidden costs for buyers.

Lugano wants to build the homes at Birney Hill. It is one of two companies at the centre of controversy over moves to build 800 new dwellings in the green belt surrounding the estate and Ponteland.

The company has now announced that it is seeking to create the trust which, it says, would remove the cost of land ownership from buying at the site, said to be around a third of the cost of a property purchase.

Under this arrangement, the homeowner owns the property but not the land on which it is situated.

This, Lugano says, would save residents around 50% of the market cost for such properties, allowing it to charge around £110,000 to £120,000 for a two-bedroom house and £130,000 to £140,000 for three bedrooms.

Director Scott Munro said: “Residents told us that many younger people and families cannot afford to buy or rent homes in Ponteland. We propose to offer local people first say on the affordable housing at Birney Hill by putting in place a community land trust which allows residents or people with family ties to Ponteland to benefit from high quality, low cost houses, but puts control back in the hands of the community.

“The land trust means that these homes would be managed by the community, and the trust will select who gets the right to buy a house if an owner sells it. The land discount will always be applied. It is a powerful way to enable generations of families to live close to each other who would not otherwise be able to afford to.”

The company has also said it envisages building around 30 low cost starter houses, 30 for “downsizing” families or retired people and 30 to 50 self-build plots, although it expects Northumberland County Council to determine the exact amount of affordable housing.

The company says the self-build plots would start at between £150,000 to £200,000.

Last night, Alma Dunigan, chairman of the Ponteland Green Belt Group which is fighting the scheme, claimed she was not surprised by Lugano’s statements on affordable homes, claiming the developer would “think this is going to win everybody over”. She claimed there would be “hidden costs” for buyers.

Lugano is holding a Birney Hill development exhibition on Saturday, October 27 from 11am to 4pm at Memorial Hall on Darras Road in Ponteland.

Source: Journal Live