Ashford Borough Council
Henwood — proposing a net zero-carbon, short-stay accommodation development.
The Overall Picture
Like all local authorities in the country, Ashford Borough Council has a duty to house homeless people within the borough.
The consultation is being held on the ZED PODS website — as ZED PODS is the company the council will partner with to deliver the proposed project. All nearby businesses and residents are being contacted about the consultation, which seeks your views on the proposal.
It is important to state that homelessness is not the same as rough sleeping. People who are homeless may be homeless because they have lost their job or been evicted from their existing rental property, they may be fleeing domestic violence, a relationship breakdown, or just have lost their way in life. They may even be ‘sofa-surfing’ with no permanent home or may have irrevocably fallen out with family.
Ashford Borough Council
ZED PODS Ltd
Under the Homelessness Reduction Act, the council has a legal duty to provide anybody who is homeless, or threatened with homelessness, with advice and appropriate assistance. This can, of course, include the provision of temporary accommodation.
The council already has two short-stay accommodation facilities in the borough in South Ashford — at Christchurch House and Christchurch Lodge. These have helped almost 200 households at the most vulnerable time in their lives and have given them an opportunity to start again, to progress from there into accommodation suitable for them.
However, the council only has these two eight-bedroom short-stay accommodation facilities, and currently, there are just over 100 people to whom the council has accepted a homelessness duty. These people stay in either bed and breakfast accommodation or paid for nightly accommodation. On average these placements cost around £260 per week and, aside from the huge impact this has on those households, it puts a considerable strain on the council’s finances and budgets.
If the council has its own facilities that can house residents at what is a traumatic time in their lives, it is considered that there are benefits for everyone. Residents who do find themselves homeless will be provided with a base upon which they can seek to find more permanent accommodation, while the taxpayer and the council reduce their ongoing financial obligation of paying for third-party temporary accommodation. It is also not as cost-effective for the council to renovate and repurpose old buildings as it is to provide a new one from fresh.
Therefore, the council is seeking to provide more short-stay temporary accommodation that means it will, in the long-term, save money and provide a much better solution for those people who find themselves homeless in the Ashford borough.
The council is therefore proposing to make use of a much-underutilised car park in Ashford to create new temporary homes for people to whom it accepts a homelessness duty. Taking figures from before the pandemic, Henwood Car Park operates at around 20% capacity and has been at this level for many years.
The proposal features 23 units of accommodation that are temporary homes for those people who have found themselves homeless. These would be provided as a ‘safety net’ and ‘stepping stone’ until individuals or households are able to move on to more permanent accommodation. The site would be softened by landscaping and would be actively managed by staff on-site, who would be provided within management offices as part of the development. The staffing would be undertaken by officers employed by the council to make sure the site was run efficiently, in a similar way that Christchurch House and Christchurch Lodge are managed.
The 23 homes proposed are a mix of 13 x One-bed, 9 x Two-bed and 1 x Three-bed units to ensure a mix of individuals and families are able to be accommodated in the development. There is also a large enclosed garden to the rear. This would aid the sense of community within the scheme at any one time and makes the site easier to manage from the council’s perspective, so there is very limited impact on the surrounding community.
Breakdown of the proposed units
GIFA = Gross Internal Floor Area
While the area technically sits within a flood zone, detailed flood management plans have been produced that will be submitted as part of any future planning application submission. The design of the homes is discussed in the next section but the placement of this custom-made modular solution on top of a 2.4m high platform means that the homes will withstand even the most extreme 100-year (plus climate change) flooding event.
Parking will be retained on-site, providing 19 spaces plus two disabled bays, so there will be ample car parking to support this development.
The main features of this development are the savings it will make for the Council’s General Fund (anticipated to be £5.284m over the life of the project and an internal rate of return (IRR) of 6.60%), the better living conditions it will provide for those who are homeless, and the scheme’s intention to be net-zero carbon, a vital consideration for development in this day and age.
The Council has appointed ZED PODS, who build high-quality factory-produced modular homes. They are highly-insulated, triple-glazed homes with heat recovery ventilation and, in total, there will be approximately 175 solar panels integrated into the roof across this site. The fabric of the building is designed to create net-zero carbon homes with very low running costs. The homes are Build Off-site Property Assurance Scheme (BOPAS) accredited, which means that though these homes are built from non-traditional methods, the product and its materials will last at least 60 years.
One of the benefits of using a modular construction is that the disruption on site, during construction, will be less than a traditional build would be to surrounding residents and businesses. The time it takes will also be foreshortened. Modular construction has made it easier for us to deliver zero carbon. This has dictated how the homes look and their arrangement. It also means that we can build on this specific site.
What else is the Council doing?
Of course, once temporary homes are filled up the Council needs to find what is known as ‘move-on’ accommodation that enables people to move from these short-stay properties into more permanent solutions that enable them to start rebuilding their lives. That’s why the Council is building and acquiring more homes for people to live in. It has two other schemes and a number of sites that it is developing plans for — these span both homes for older people to live independently in, and more general needs homes, for younger individuals and families. It also is acquiring new-build homes that are delivered through planning section 106 agreements and it is also buying back homes once sold off through the right-to-buy process, in areas where there are other council-owned homes. All of these endeavours increase the number of homes the Council has, but demand still exceeds supply.
The consultation will begin in December and run through until Wednesday 5th January and we look forward to your comments on the proposals, which will be taken into account before finalising the scheme for submission to the local planning authority.
The intention is to submit a planning application early in the New Year. We would however, like your views on the proposals. Please complete the questionnaire and we will feed those views into our review of the application before it is submitted.
You can view an example of the style of a modular unit below:
Project Timeline — Preparing Planning Applicaiton
Project Brief approved by the Council
Undertook Feasibility Studies
Agree on Project Budget
Prepare Project Programme
Building Regulations Application
Construction Phase Plan
Building handed over to the Council
Residents move in
Develop Business Case
Review Project Risks
Review Project Budget
Undertook Site Appraisals
Construction off-site to minimise disruption and site installation
Planning application to be submitted
2022 - To be confirmed
Architectural Concept approved by the Council and aligned to the Project Brief
Obtain pre-application Planning Advice
Initial Cost Plan
Planning Application Submitted
Spring 2021/22 • Completed
Thank you for all your feedback and ideas that helped us finalise our proposals.
The online public consultation in January 2022 has now been completed.