AN ASHFIELD housing chief has praised a landmark decision to demolish the former baths site in Sutton to make way for the district’s first social housing for more than 30 years.
Last week, members of Ashfield District Council’s planning committee approved ambitious plans to demolish the Sutton pools complex and Brook Street Hall to make way for 22 apartments and three bungalows for the elderly - and work on the site is due to begin on Monday.
It is the first time the authority has built social housing since 1984 and Coun Steve Carroll, who is responsible for regeneration, culture and housing, says that the decision marks the start of a 30-year rolling programme to boost the number of council homes across the area.
He said: “Every week I get phone calls, emails and letters from people saying that they need a property.
“We have got to increase the housing stock in the district. We know there is more demand for bungalows and hopefully this will free up family houses.”
Coun Carroll also said that the Government’s new bedroom tax, which will cut the amount of housing benefits people receive if they have spare bedrooms, has made some council house tenants want to move into smaller accommodation such as that being built on the baths site.
“I know one or two people who want to move out of a three bedroom house but we just don’t have the smaller units,” he added.
Outlining the council’s plans to build more social housing in the future Coun Carroll said: “We have gone for the easiest sites which we own and we are now looking at others.
“There are lots of dis-used garage sites and I am hoping that each year we will come forward with more sites.”
The council has also pledged to take down the iconic red-brick facade ‘brick by brick’ so that it can be incorporated into the new development.
As well as accommodation, the site will also include a community centre which Coun Carroll says he hopes will be used by the whole community.
“What we’ve tried to do is make it self-contained so that if a community group wants to use it they are not going to disturb the residents,” he said.
“I’m hoping there will be activities for the wider public.”
Meanwhile, Darron Ellis, from the Freshfields project which has campaigned to preserve the heritage of the site, said that while the group backed the plan for housing, members were concerned that the size of the community room was too small.
He said: “The group is continuing to work with the council on the best way forward to make the community space viable and discuss how it is going to be maintained.”
And Coun Carroll said: “We’re looking to increase the size of it and we think that they will be happy with what we have come up with.”