Milestone for £42m project to tackle housing shortage

These artist impressions show how an empty council building will be transformed into much-needed homes as part of a wider £42 million project to help tackle Essex’s housing shortage.

Essex County Council has planning permission to turn the former library HQ and storage warehouse in Goldlay Gardens, Chelmsford, into 32 one and two bedroom apartments.

The development shows Essex is ahead of the curve after the launch of the Government’s housing strategy today, which describes the current housing market as ‘broken’, and sets out changes to the rules around development that put pressure on both councils and developers to build more new homes.

In Essex County Council’s boundaries, 136,000 new homes are needed over the next 20 years, 6,800 per year. When the unitary authorities of Southend and Thurrock are included, that figure rises to 180,000 homes. In 2015/16 in the ECC area, 5,000 new homes were built.

The new homes in Goldlay Gardens, including nine affordable units, will be built in three blocks - all with balconies or terraces, roof mounted solar panels and car parking - around a central courtyard garden.

It is the first site to be developed by Essex Housing, the authority’s in-house team that works with public sector partners countywide to identify surplus land for development and make the most of taxpayer-owned assets.

Cllr John Spence, Cabinet member responsible for housing, said: “The development of Goldlay Gardens represents a real milestone in our project to find idle pockets of public sector land and bring them forward for development to help tackle the county’s housing shortage.

“This is the first of many sites the Essex Housing team is bringing forward and will provide high quality apartments on surplus brownfield land in the heart of Chelmsford’s city centre.

“Land owned by the public sector is ultimately owned by the taxpayer, therefore it is incredibly important that we, as custodians, are making the most of these assets.”

Cllr David Finch, leader of Essex County Council, and Cllr Dick Madden, the Chelmsford Central ward councillor, visited the site on Tuesday to watch the demolition on site, before construction work on the apartments begins.

Rose Builders Ltd has been chosen to develop the site, subject to the council’s call-in procedure.

Cllr Finch added: “Essex County Council has agreed a £42 million capital budget over the next five years for Essex Housing, in collaboration with local authorities countywide, to identify unwanted buildings and land to build more open-market, affordable and specialist housing.

“We hope this is the first of many projects as from 2019/20 Essex Housing aims to deliver at least 150 new homes every year.”

Feasibility studies are underway at another 10 sites to see if they are suitable for much needed housing.