Cabinet agrees to transfer Windsor open space to housing group

Kieran Bell and Local Democracy Reporter James Bagley

WINDSOR 133500-3

Sawyer's Close, Windsor

An area of open space in Windsor is set to be transferred to a housing group to build future affordable homes.

Senior councillors agreed at last week's cabinet meeting to dispose of council-owned land in Sawyers Close, an ex-council estate consisting of 192 homes, to estate owners Abri Housing Group.

According to the report, Abri approached the Royal Borough to take ownership of the land so they can build affordable housing as they are looking to either refurbish or redevelop the existing 1960s flat blocks.

The work would require temporarily transferring the existing tenants to the newly developed building, which would be subject to a planning application, whilst major works at Sawyers Close are undertaken.

No decision has been made by Abri if they want to redevelop or refurbish the existing flats as it would require a public consultation.

Leader of the council, councillor Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley & Walthams) said at last Thursday’s meeting: “I think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to potentially improve the buildings, but also genuinely to improve the outcome for a significant number of residents who live there.”

Resident and ex-Conservative councillor Ed Wilson said it was ‘great to see’ improvements to the buildings but asked if the council and Abri could communicate what will happen to ease concerns.

He said: “Mark Twain always said, ‘the secret of getting ahead is getting started’.

“Please, do get started, but please do communicate and then communicate some more with residents.

“We don’t want to vapid and pointless politics in Dedworth, but we want something done, but please communicate with us and consult with us.”

While supporting Abri improving the affordable homes stock at the site, Cllr Helen Price (TBF, Clewer and Dedworth East) was concerned over the loss of open space and ‘failed to find’ in the council’s planning policies this development would be an ‘exceptional circumstance’ to build on open space land.

Cllr Johnson said Abri will be undertaking a ‘huge’ consultation with residents to resolve any concerns they may have, and the council will play a ‘small part’ in this process.

Duncan Sharkey, managing director of the council, also said when a full planning application comes forward, the land won’t be transferred if the scheme does not justify the loss of open space.

Speaking after the meeting, opposition councillor Wisdom Da Costa (WWRA, Clewer and Dedworth West) had some concerns.

“My concern is, you have got this piece of infrastructure, lets not call it a bit of land. It is a public open space, it provides a biodiversity habitat for wildlife,” he said.

“It has value as a piece of green infrastructure and we are looking at giving it away for nothing.”

Cllr Da Costa added that he would prefer to look at alternatives – such as empty office blocks – to use for affordable homes.

Also speaking after the meeting, Cllr Ross McWilliams (Con, Cox Green) lead member for housing, said: “We have a serious need to deliver more affordable housing and for a housing association to come forward with a scheme is a positive.

“The plans are at a very early stage I am sure, but maintaining green open space will no doubt be part of the plans.

“Delivering affordable housing for people in our society is a pretty good price. Yes, we could ask for a financial [benefit] – which could make the scheme unviable and render the whole thing pointless.

“This is going to be a multi-million pound scheme that will support residents and improve this part of Windsor.”

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