Fewer homes for poorer families will be made available in more than 100 new town centre flats after a decision by the council’s previous leader, it has been revealed.

Former Bracknell Forest Council leader Paul Bettison decided to reduce the number of “affordable” flats in the Market Street housing project – just weeks before he lost his seat in local elections – to protect developers’ income.

Bracknell Forest Council and private developer Countryside Properties are building a 169-home town centre housing project where the old bus station used to be on Market Street.

The council’s previous executive committee – the leading body of councillors – appears to have approved plans for as many as 56 percent of these to be “affordable.” That means they could be let at no more than 80 per cent of market rents.

This was in a meeting in November last year, where the council committee signed off on the developer’s “settled site development plan,” which hasn’t been made public.

But Mr Bettison ruled that this should be reduced to 48 percent, in an “urgent decision” made on April 26 and only published on the council’s website a month later, on May 25.

Precise details surrounding the reason for the decision were kept confidential on the grounds that it related to the financial and business affairs of the council and Countryside Properties.

Now, Mr Bettison has explained that this was to protect developers’ income in the face of rising building costs.

READ MORE: Changes to 169 flats plan for Bracknell town centre 

Mr Bettison said: “You have to bear in mind that earlier this year there has been a 40 per cent per annum increase in the cost of building.

“If you drive around the borough you’ll have noticed quite a few development sites where there’s been nothing happening for months. The reason they stopped is if they continue building at the current costs, by the time they finish they wont be able to sell the houses and get the money back.”

He added: “We were faced with the same predicament with Market Street. So the decision was taken with advice that what we should do is to look at reducing our costs in some ways. One way of reducing the costs is to build less affordable housing.”

The council added that the proportion of affordable houses is still above the 25 percent demanded by council policy and required by the planning permission granted to developers.

The council’s executive director for resources Stuart McKellar added that Mr Bettison’s decision related to affordable housing above the 25 per cent requirement.

He said it came after “feedback” from some of the housing associations interested in purchasing the homes to let at affordable rents.