RESIDENTS of a North Devon village who petitioned against social housing are to be updated on changes to a development which will now offer affordable homes to buy.

North Devon councillor Peter Jones (Ind, Witheridge) has called for a public meeting to discuss a scheme called Willow Heights at Witheridge by Allison Homes, which has already built the first phase.

Almost a quarter of people in the village signed a petition over their fears that phase two, originally intended to be a mix of 155 open market and social housing, was now to be exclusively social rental properties with no opportunity for residents to upsize or downsize there.

Cllr Jones said he now been told by the developers that the mix will be rented and shared ownership which will give local people a chance to get on the housing ladder.

He is due to meet with senior council officers and the developers to make sure a public meeting would happen.

Shared ownership homes means people who cannot afford the whole deposit and mortgage payments can buy a share of the property and pay rent to a landlord on the rest.

Over time they can buy the landlord out and later sell their home on the open market.

Cllr Jones said this is a significant change in the application and it should go back to the planning authority, but at the very least the developers, housing provider and North Devon Council should talk to the community.

He added: “This is a big development for our village and people are concerned over what exactly it is going to be. Residents felt strongly enough to start a petition so it’s important they are kept informed of any changes.”

Allison Homes bosses said in a letter to Cllr Jones that they hoped the proposal would be seen in a more “positive light, ensuring that all these homes were available to a range of people in need of housing, including local residents”.

The socially rented homes would be available to people on the North Devon local priority housing list, they said.

In a statement, the company said: “We are committed to building high-quality homes at Willow Heights with a mixture of tenures. This is in accordance with the planning consent granted, blending affordable housing with homes for sale in line with local plan policy.”

It said it had received offers from multiple housing providers and would make a decision in the spring.

“It should be noted, L and G was the chosen affordable housing provider on phase one, but this does not mean they will automatically be chosen for phase two.

“It is always our intention to positively engage with the local community and this will continue whilst progressing with construction works at Willow Heights.”

North Devon Council said the developer would not need to materially alter the original planning if it decided to offer a mix of tenures, and might only require minor amendments to an existing Section 106 agreement to deliver this.

Alison Stephenson