New body set up to rescue council’s efforts to build 31,000 homes in and around town by 2031

Ashford council is to set up a delivery body to turn around its faltering plan to double the size of the town in the next 25 years.

The council last week approved a draft plan for a special purpose vehicle to re-inject purpose into the plans to build 31,000 homes in and around Ashford by 2031.

Housebuilding levels fell to just 359 starts last year, despite the fact that more than 1,000 homes are needed each year to meet the council’s interim target of 9,070 new homes by 2011. Completions are predicted to rise for 2007/08, but just to 576, still well short of the annual target.

A spokesperson for the council said the body would focus on driving delivery of the housebuilding targets through the redevelopment of city centre sites. Housebuilding plans in the town are currently co-ordinated by Ashford’s Future, a consortium of the town council, Kent council, English Partnerships and the South East England Development Agency. So far, Ashford’s Future, which has not had a permanent chief executive since last March, has concentrated on policy development rather than delivery.

The special purpose vehicle will sit alongside the current body, reporting to the existing Ashford’s Future board. Robyn Pyle, Land Securities’ director, has been asked to chair the vehicle and this week the search began for a managing director.

The council spokesperson said: “This vehicle will look particularly at the town centre, as that’s where early growth is planned.”

Robert Stevenson, chair of the Ashford Landowners Group, said: “Progress has been painfully slow. The housing numbers are terrible and this is down to a lack of planning permissions being granted by the council.”

Ashford’s growth plans

Current population 110,000
Planned new homes 31,000 between 2001 and 2031
Annual housebuilding target 1,100
Homes built in 2005/06 590; Homes built 2006/7: 359
Number of homes predicted for 2007/08 576
Government funding £22m between 2008 and 2011