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Starter homes and the importance of art discussed at Royal Borough meeting

Starter homes and the importance of art discussed at Royal Borough meeting

Lucy Elder

Government proposals to help young people get a foot on the housing ladder were discussed by Royal Borough councillors last night.

The proposals came in the shape of a consultation from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The government is proposing to change national planning policy to introduce a starter homes scheme specifically for first time buyers.

Councillors at the meeting held in Maidenhead Town Hall in St Ives Road agreed that while they liked the idea in principle, there were holes in the plan.

Starter homes are set to be priced at least 20 percent below the current market value and the government wants 100,000 to be built across the country over the next five years.

"In short, the Royal Borough doesn't have vast acres of undeveloped land," said Royal Borough development control manager Suki Coe.

"Despite the 20 percent discount, they are still going to be pretty expensive homes in this area anyway."

In their response to the consultation, councillors decided there should be a formal application process so eligibility checks can be made and those applying must specify a location and demonstrate a connection with the community.

They also discussed the danger of properties becoming buy to let and agreed a mechanism 'must be put in place' to make sure the affordability of the homes is maintained for future owners.

A report on the proposed 2015/16 budget and council tax was commended by the panel and it will now go to the borough's decision-making cabinet to be discussed next month.

During discussions, Cllr Malcolm Beer (Old Windsor Residents' Association, Old Windsor) raised concerns about the amount of capital bids for art.

"That is a million quid of art work," he said.

"That could much more usefully be spent on a few more officers to get jobs done more quickly with a bit less pressure on them."

It was noted at the meeting that the borough probably doesn't have the funds to fund all of the bids.

Cllr Claire Stretton (Cons, Boyn Hill) defended the importance of art in the borough.

"I think it is extremely important for the town to have a heart and a soul to create a place that people want to live and be," she said.

"Public art gives a town a sense of place and a heart and soul."

Ms Coe said art doesn't just include structures, but also includes lighting to make the town an 'interesting and inviting place'.

Members also commended a report on a draft conservation area appraisal for inner Windsor, Clarence Road and Trinity Place that is requesting cabinet approval to go out to public consultation.

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