Social housing plans are the first part of much needed investment, says architect

Plans for 250 new council homes in Powys over the next five years are just the start of a much needed investment in the area’s social housing sector, according to a local architect.

Powys County Council has announced it will build the homes as part of a five-year programme, adding to the 5,300 homes it already provides in the county.

Doug Hughes, principal architect and managing director at Newtown-based Hughes Architects, welcomed the announcement.

“The investment by Powys County Council demonstrates the importance of social housing to the authority and the need for such housing in the county, as well as the much wider region,” said Mr Hughes.

“There have been a number of smaller developments undertaken throughout the county by Mid Wales Housing, Wales and West Housing and others over recent years, which when combined, are providing much needed homes in some of our more rural communities here in Mid Wales, as well as larger towns, such as Newtown and Llandrindod Wells.”

“There remains considerable demand for social housing in the region, as there does throughout Wales, and more investment is still needed for such provision.

“We have been working with private developers and housing associations to address this and have worked on several schemes in north Powys to help bring such stock forward. These include the former Magistrates court development in Back Lane, Newtown, and at the former Social Club site in Welshpool where plans are currently being considered.

“We’re also pleased that a development of 24 apartments that we designed for the former Bowling Club site in Newtown will also form part of Powys County Council’s investment in social housing. Work on this development will begin in the spring of next year.”

Mr Hughes said the private sector remained important to the provision of social housing by bringing forward land for such development and working closely with the county council and housing associations.

“We’d like to see more collaboration to bring forward brownfield sites in the area for social housing. This can be achieved by working together – the private and public sector working towards the same goal.

“This can be seen in such developments as those in Newtown that can act as a blueprint for others, such as the former Social Club site in Welshpool. But much more needs to be done and we look forward to working with partners and others to address this in the area.”

Hughes Architects, which has offices in Newtown, Welshpool, Aberystwyth and Cardiff, provides building design and planning services to individuals, developers, landowners and the public sector.

Its ethos is to help support, develop and deliver social and community housing as part of its overall private sector work, working with organisations, community groups and the public sector.

According to Powys County Council, its annual guaranteed allocation for Social Housing Grant in the county has increased from £1.56 million in 2014 to £7.2 million in 2018.

The council has also committed to developing new homes using home-grown timber as part of the Wood Encouragement Policy which will also support the local economy by using local businesses and contractors to supply such timber.

“This is another good initiative by Powys County Council, working closely with Wood Knowledge Wales,” added Mr Hughes.

“Ensuring local products and services, including materials such as timber, are sourced helps encourage greater investment in the economy as well as supporting local businesses. This is to be welcomed and should be encouraged.”