A CONSERVATIVE-led council has been accused of leaving hundreds of families with little choice but to co-habit with relatives or leave an area with one of the highest gap between incomes and house prices in the North.

The Labour groups representing the Thirsk and Malton and Richmond constituencies have launched an attack on Hambleton District Council following a government inspector hearing almost four times the number of affordable houses the authority is targeting needs to be built.

They said the council’s proposal in its forthcoming Local Plan to build 55 affordable homes a year until 2035, would “profoundly fail” its residents.

The criticism came as a government inspector concluded several weeks of hearings into key elements of the blueprint which will shape developments in the district for the next 15 years.

The council has repeatedly stated creating more affordable housing is among its top priorities and councillors have expressed frustration as many developers have strived to build as few below market value properties as possible as they are less profitable the market value homes. Its draft Local Plan highlights the lack of affordable housing as a key social and economic problem facing the district.

At the Local Plan hearings this week, the Labour groups told the inspector while they had calculated the need for affordable housing in Hambleton as around 200 new homes a year, the council’s blueprint proposes fewer new affordable homes than had been built in recent years. They highlighted latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showing the gap between incomes and house prices in Hambleton as among the highest in the North. A Labour Party spokesman said public consultations over the Local Plan repeatedly identified a lack of affordable housing as a major issue for residents. He said about 1,000 families were waiting for social rented housing, but there were only 171 lettings to new tenants last year.

He said: “It is not just a statistical matter. It affects people, young people particularly, in direct and life-changing ways. Those who cannot get on the home ownership ladder face the choice of sharing a home with parents or friends or leaving the area to get a home of their own. There is damage to peoples lives, damage to society and damage to the local economy.” The Labour groups argue there is a case for increasing new building of affordable housing to around 280 new homes a year to clear the current shortage in five years rather than over 15 years.

The spokesman added: “If Hambleton council adopts this plan which locks them in to continuing long term under provision of affordable housing they will be profoundly failing Hambleton people.”

Hambleton District Council’s chief planning officer Jon Berry said the authority’s Local Plan aimed to ensure the authority had the right housing requirements in place for the district for the coming years.

He added: “An important part of this is to make sure we can provide the right level of affordable housing across Hambleton. Our housing policies explain clearly how we aim to deliver affordable housing that meet the needs of residents in terms of suitability and availability.”

Mr Berry said the Local Plan and the council’s housing policies would be considered by the planning inspectors as part of the process following the hearings. He said: “We look forward to receiving the outcome of their considerations which should be available to us in a few months’ time.”