Councillors fear social landlord is deserting East Lindsey

Coastal councillors fear East Lindsey’s housing association has turned its back on the district to develop in more lucrative areas.

The Waterloo Housing Group is thought to have raised £30 million by re-mortgaging its social housing stock in the district, which several councillors fear will be spent on developments elsewhere.

The Mayor of Skegness Coun Mark Anderson is concerned this will place greater strains on the 5,000 strong waiting list, a third of which is located in Skegness, and has called for it to be taken back under district council control.

Speaking at Wednesday’s East Lindsey District Council meeting, he said: “That’s a major concern for me and for the people that are in desperate need of affordable housing.”

Coun Neil Cooper also feared the housing association was relocating its base to Solihull and questioned how that might impact on services locally.

And Coun Tony Howard issued further concerns that money raised from local assets was being transferred out of the region despite its need to be retained.

“By removing the money from our area to go to projects not even in Lincolnshire but across the country near Birmingham is really drastic when there’s a need for housing in our area,” he said.

He also claimed to have received more complaints from New Linx tenants about its failure to resolve housing issues as further evidence its resources were over stretched and its priorities elsewhere.

However portfolio holder for the built environment Coun William Gray, who has previously worked for housing associations down-played the fears, claiming the re-mortgaging was ‘nothing unusual’.

While acknowledging there were changes afoot, which may involve local redundancies, he assured councillors that the Waterloo Housing Group would be retaining a presence within the district.

“We are aware of what’s happening but rest assured nothing is happening to the housing teams - they will be staying in the district,” he said.

Coun John Upsall even thought it may be good news if the increased capital enabled local development.

Gemma Boden at Waterloo Housing Group has also made assurances the company is committed to building new and affordable homes in Lincolnshire and ‘especially within East Lindsey’.

She has pointed to the creation of almost 1,000 homes in the district, which the group has achieved in partnership with ELDC over the past seven years as evidence of this and says it will continue ‘until at least 2015 and beyond’.

“This makes us the largest developer of new affordable homes in the county,” she said.

“As a group we are spending over £100 million this year developing new affordable homes across the Midlands and Lincolnshire, of which at least one third will be in built in Lincolnshire,” she added.

However, speaking after the meeting, Coun Anderson pointed to year-on year reductions in new East Lindsey housing developments as evidence the group’s priorities were elsewhere.

He believes towns such Grantham, Gainsbrough, Lincoln and other larger settlements identified as growth regions were more lucrative for developers as they could take advantage of government grants which supported housing in such areas.

East Lindsey is not considered a growth region, Coun Anderson claims, because the East Midlands Development plan ignores the impact of its visitor economy, thereby portraying bleak employment prospects.

Council leader Coun Doreen Stephenson raised concerns about the development plan’s failure to represent East Lindsey’s economy, though she didn’t link it with the housing matters.