South Ribble's first council homes in years move closer - and they will be something different
The first council houses to be built in decades in South Ribble could be completed in little more than a year.
The search is now on to find a contractor capable of delivering the specialist environmentally-friendly design of the 15 dwellings planned for the site of the former McKenzie Arms pub on Station Road in Bamber Bridge.
It is intended that the affordable-rented development will be built in the so-called “passivhaus” style - an international standard which seeks to reduce the amount of energy it takes to heat a home.
South Ribble Borough Council’s cabinet has given the go-ahead to the process of appointing a firm to bring the long-discussed plans for the £2.2m project off the drawing board.
It is hoped that work on the estate - comprising three, three-bedroom townhouses, nine one-bedroom apartments and three two-bedroom apartments - can begin by July and be finished by the end of March 2022.
The properties will take the form of modular buildings, designed to make it easier to secure passivhaus accreditation. Construction methods vary for such properties, but usually include heat recovery systems, copious insulation and a focus on making the building as airtight as possible.
A cabinet meeting heard that longer-term maintenance costs are reduced compared to traditional builds, but that the specialist nature of the work could make finding a contractor a challenge.
“It is important that the people we appoint are capable and experienced [in] delivering just what we want,” said member for resources Matthew Tomlinson.
“We will be shouting from the rooftops about this project - we have always said we want this to be an exemplar, something we can be proud of.”
He added that the authority would be prepared to consider bids from companies within a near 40-mile radius of South Ribble as a result, whereas it would usually prioritise borough-based firms or those located elsewhere in Central Lancashire.
However, the successful firm will be required to demonstrate how local subcontractors will benefit from the scheme.
Conservative opposition councillor Alan Ogilvie queried whether the “design and build” contract being offered was the best option when the council’s own analysis suggested that it could be “more costly” in the event of variations to the scope of the project.
Council leader Paul Foster said that the answer lay in not “issuing late instructions”.
“The golden rule with a design and build type contract is clearly that you do all the pre-work upfront and get the design, specification and scope of works to a point that you won't need to make any amendments.”
Average annual heating bills in passivhaus homes are just £75 according to website homebuilding.co.uk