PLANS to reduce the number of affordable homes on a new development in Thornbury have been blasted by angry protesters.

Developer David Wilson Homes wants to reduce the number of affordable houses on the Park Farm estate from 175 to 91.

This would see the number of affordable homes – properties available below market value in order to help people get on the housing ladder – drop from the 35 per cent agreed when South Gloucestershire Council granted planning permission to just 18.2.

The developer had asked to reduce the number of affordable houses to just 10 per cent, but reached the 18.2 figure after negotiations with the council.

Thornbury faces about 1,500 new homes being built with the Park Farm, Thornbury Fields and Post Farm developments already granted permission, and applications submitted for the Cleve Park and Land West of Gloucester Road schemes.

Roger Hall, chairman of the Thornbury Residents Against Poorly Planned Development (TRAPP’D) action group, said he was “truly disappointed” by the move from David Wilson Homes.

“The word affordable should mean we can get more young professionals and couples on the ladder – these are the people we should be building houses for,” he said.

“We don’t need the four- to five-bedroom houses, we need smaller houses and flats.”

SGC planning officers have recommended allowing David Wilson Homes – which is building the estate in partnership with Barratt Homes – to reduce the number of affordable homes and it is understood that the decision will not be made by planning committee councillors.

Mr Hall said: “If the advice our elected councillors are given is that the developers can change an agreement with no consequence to themselves, then it questions the very purpose of such legal proceedings.

“Everything is working in the favour of the developers as they can change the ground rules whenever they like and the councils just have to go along with it.”

Mr Hall also highlighted the “dangerous precedent” the decision could set: “With so many developments going up around Thornbury, if it happens once it definitely could happen again and again. Are they all going to end up doing the same thing?”

Calling the decision “appalling”, South Gloucestershire and Thornbury Town councillor Maggie Tyrrell said that it would be “a waste of time” in trying to fight the application.

She said: “We have been led to believe that there is not even any point in challenging this application – that if it goes to committee, it will be a waste of time.

“I am horrified that we are going to have the numbers halved when the situation the town is in leaves us desperate for houses that people can afford.

“Everyone knows that affordable [housing] is a major issue in Thornbury, so for the developers to turn around and say they will only provide half of what was agreed when they were given planning permission is atrocious.

“It is just another demonstration of how the developers are manipulating the situation to suit their shareholders rather than the community.”

Campbell Gregg, operations director for David Wilson Homes, defended the application to reduce the number of affordable homes.

“All new developments are regularly reassessed for local demand and market conditions,” he said.

A spokesman for SGC said: “The Park Farm development has been subject to very rigorous and independent scrutiny, which found that at 35 per cent affordable housing, which is the council’s policy requirement, the scheme was unviable.

“Government policy requires the council to re-assess the financial stability of the proposal and we have had this work carried out by the independent district valuer.

“Based on their assessment, the project would stall if the original level of affordable housing was enforced, but officers have negotiated with the developers for the scheme to deliver 18 per cent, despite the developer’s starting point in the negotiation being only 10 per cent affordable housing.

“This decision is based on the independent evidence of the district valuer and regulated by Government planning laws. Each and every application is considered on its own specific financial credentials. This case does not set a precedent for other developments, each of which is assessed individually.”