A FORMER Winchester fire station has brought civic chiefs under scrutiny over the issue of affordable housing.

The site at North Walls, which was closed in 2011, is to be demolished to make way for six four-bedroom, six three-bedroom and four two-bedroom houses, including two semi-detached two-bed bungalows.

But the plans to exclude affordable homes forced the planning committee to answer claims from other members of the city council.

Cllr Iain Tait, portfolio holder for housing, was unhappy that there is no affordable housing: “Whilst I whole-heartedly support the proposals I cannot support our policies on this particular application. We are striving for higher quality houses over affordable ones. We as a body have made a clear determination and it’s very sad that affordable housing is less important than achieving a higher code of sustainability. We have to revise our policies if all that we do is cement money over and above affordable homes.”

As reported last month, the application was put back for negotiation as the developer said the scheme would not be viable if affordable housing had to be provided.

Cllr Dominic Hiscock said: “We seem to be making life more difficult for ourselves. There is a severe need for affordable housing. It’s getting more and more difficult to find somewhere to live where people can bring up a family in this city.”

Cllr Barry Lipscomb said: “I have total sympathy with [Cllr Hiscock] but this is not the place for this. We are not here to have political debates about council policy.”

The site was previously earmarked for 35 flats which was rejected.

Alistair Harris, Bargate homes’ planning consultant, said: “I’m very pleased to report having gone back to the drawing board, quite literally in this case, and there’s a large body of support with this application. We have moved away from a high density of 35 flats to family homes. The obvious problem is that reducing the level of a development by a third, it’s difficult to achieve this level of code of sustainability. It does achieve all the rest of the code requirements.”

Despite the objections the committee approved the application unanimously.

Cllr Therese Evans said: “This is a very important development. The problem for me is the lack of affordable housing. I’m aware that we seem to be choosing the sustainability over affordable housing. Do we want Winchester to be past making affordable housing regardless if we have Pitt Manor or Barton Farm? We have a moral obligation. I’m happy to support it but I do have regrets.”

Sales and Marketing Director of Bargate Homes, Rob Lambie, said “This location has already generated substantial interest from buyers, I feel enormously fortunate to be offering home buyers beautiful new homes, once again, in the centre of Winchester.”

The houses are due for completion towards the end of 2015.