AN AREA of open space in Windsor has been transferred to a housing group to build future affordable homes.

Senior councillors approved recommendations to dispose of council-owned land in Sawyers Close, which is an ex-council estate and consists of 192 homes, to estate owners Abri Housing Group.

According to the report, Abri approached the Royal Borough to take ownership of the land so they can build affordable housing as they are looking to either refurbish or redevelop the existing 1960s flat blocks there.

The refurbishment or redevelopment work would require temporarily transferring the existing tenants to the newly developed building, which would be subject to a planning application, whilst the major works at Sawyers Close is undertaken.

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No decision has been made by Abri if they want to redevelop or refurbish the existing flats as it would require a public consultation with tenants and key stakeholders.

The leader of the council, councillor Andrew Johnson (Con: Hurley & Walthams) said: “I think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to potentially improve the buildings, but also genuinely to improve the outcome for a significant number of residents who live there as well.”

The land sold off outlined in red

The land sold off outlined in red

Resident and ex-Conservative councillor Ed Wilson said it was ‘great to see’ improvements to the buildings but asked if the council and Abri could communicate what will happen to ease concerns.

He said: “Mark Twain always said, ‘the secret of getting ahead is getting started’.

“Please, do get started, but please do communicate and then communicate some more with residents.

“We don’t want vapid and pointless politics in Dedworth, but we want something done, but please communicate with us and consult with us.”

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While supporting Abri improving the affordable homes stock at the site, councillor Helen Price (The Borough First: Clewer & Dedworth East) was concerned over the loss of open space and ‘failed to find’ in the council’s planning policies this development would be an ‘exceptional circumstance’ to build on open space land.

Cllr Johnson said Abri will be undertaking a ‘huge’ consultation with residents to quash and resolve any concerns they may have on multiple issues, and the council will play a ‘small part’ in this process as a third party.

Duncan Sharkey, managing director of the council, added this is Abri’s project, not the local authority’s, and it’s up to them how to lead the consultation.

He also said when a full planning application comes forward, it will be tested against the council’s planning policies, and the land won’t be transferred if the scheme doesn’t justify the loss of open space.

The report was agreed upon at a cabinet meeting on Thursday, April 29.

Cllr Price added: "Since the Sawyers Close Open Space item was placed on the Cabinet Agenda Abri and the six local Ward Councillors have been in regular contact and are working together to ensure relevant and timely communication with Sawyers Close residents and the wider community."