TOP Thurrock councillors took the final step towards creating a wholly owned company to lead home building in the borough when they met on Wednesday (19 March) evening.
The council’s cabinet agreed to approve the final business case for Gloriana Thurrock Ltd.
Council Leader, Cllr John Kent, said: “We all know Thurrock’s house building is stalling while at the same time prices are going up – simple supply and demand, you might say.
“But if we approve this item here and now tonight we can make a difference and make a difference now.
“For too long local authorities have been forbidden from intervening in the housing market; unable to build council homes and unable to influence the prices of homes in their area.
“That has meant there is a long waiting list for council homes and thousands of young people who cannot afford to buy their own home.”
He said: “Our housing department is starting work on building significant numbers of new council homes and Gloriana specifically tackles that last group. It will build homes for rent – and sale; and it will build homes local people can afford to live in.
“Obviously this cannot happen overnight, but if we give permission here and now then work can start quickly and we can start making a difference.”
He said that the company would be “directly building homes, directly creating jobs, and directly showing developers how it makes sense to build here”, adding:
“There are around 8,000 outstanding planning permissions for homes in Thurrock that have not been started.
“The average home in the borough is £180,000 – that means there’s £1½ billion worth of housing waiting on drawing boards in architects’ offices or locked away in the developers’ drawers.
“Gloriana will unlock those plans; Gloriana will help move those plans off the boards and out of the offices. Gloriana will launch Thurrock’s house-building.”
Cllr Kent said: “We have looked very carefully at this model and are as sure as we can be that carefully borrowing money is affordable and, more than that, will provide a small return for the council.
“This is a unique proposal which is being watched carefully by others across the country.
“It is financed by the council prudentially borrowing funds, selling the land to Gloriana at the going rate, and getting equity in the company. All returns and profits go back to council.
“Gloriana will not physically build the homes, but employ a construction firm for that, creating local jobs and we are looking at our allocations policy so we can ensure homes for local people are the priority.”
He explained that members were also agreeing that the first site would be the former St Chad’s School in Tilbury, which “has been hanging over this council for many years; a site that has become an eyesore and a magnet for anti-social behaviour and – of late – an illegal traveller encampment”.
“So let’s not delay further. Let’s give Gloriana the go-ahead here tonight so that in a year’s time we can say these new homes are the best, the most ecologically-friendly, homes Tilbury has ever seen.
“The sooner Gloriana can start work the better.”