NEW social housing can be built in Crewkerne after the district council stumped up a six-figure sum towards its cost.

Magna Housing is to build seven new homes on the site of St Peter’s Church, at the junction of Furland Road and the A356 South Street.

Crewkerne has one of the highest demands for social housing in south Somerset, partially resulting from continued delays in delivering both the town’s key site and a development on North Street.

To alleviate the situation, South Somerset District Council has agreed to contribute £350,000 towards the development once planning permission has been obtained.

Outline planning permission to develop the church site was granted to the Diocese of Clifton in June 2017.

Each of the seven properties intended for the site will be marketed for social rent (below the market rate), with one of them having at least four bedrooms.

Colin McDonald, the council’s corporate housing strategy manager,  said that Crewkerne had the third highest need for social and affordable housing in the district, behind only Yeovil and Chard.

He said: “As of May 16, there were 113 active applicant households on the Homefinder Somerset system expressing Crewkerne as their first choice of parish.

“Unlike in Yeovil or Chard, applicants have only been able to bid for vacancies arising within the existing social housing stock.”

Since the completion of 40 new affordable homes at the Maiden Beech site in March 2012, only four such dwellings have been delivered in Crewkerne – two of which were acquired from the private sector.

Mr McDonald said that this situation had largely been caused by delays on the Crewkerne key site, where no new homes have been delivered.

Developer Taylor Wimpey was given outline planning permission in March 2017 to build 110 homes, a 60-bed care home and employment space on land off Station Road.

The company cannot start work until a reserved matters application (laying out the layout and fine details of the homes) has been approved – but to date no such application has been submitted.

Until the council’s recent review of its Local Plan, no new proposals for major development in Crewkerne were brought forward due to “the natural constraints of the settlement”.

Any new sites which came to light through this review are unlikely to come forward until the end of 2018.

The council gave more than £1M to the Stonewater Housing Association in September 2016, in order to deliver 40 new homes on North Street, subject to planning permission and funding from Homes England being secured.

Stonewater submitted plans for 42 homes, which were turned down in July 2017. The housing association has lodged an appeal, with the Planning Inspectorate yet to make a final decision.

Mr McDonald said that providing Magna with this founding was “a well-justified allocation” given the “otherwise stifled affordable housing programme in Crewkerne”.

When this £350,000 commitment is taken into account, the council has £641,000 which it can allocate within its affordable housing reserve fund.

It also has £500,000 set aside for “rural exception schemes” – small parcels of agricultural land, usually brought forward at a fraction of its market value for housing, on the strict condition that the homes must be solely for local people and must be affordable.