A PLAN to spend two-and-a-half-times the going rate to build four council houses for £1.2 million has come in for stinging criticism.

The cost was described as “outrageous” by one councillor, who also slammed the Labour administration for trying to prevent taxpayers and Argus readers knowing the cost of the scheme.

Councillor Mary Mears, (Con), opposition spokeswoman for housing, added that for £1.2 million the council could build ten homes.

Councillor Steve Bell (Con) asked: “Why are we hiding stuff from the taxpayers? This is information they should be made aware of.”

A proposal to be debated at tonight’s meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council’s housing committee plans to knock down a row of concrete garages in Rotherfield Crescent, Hollingbury, and build four, flat-roofed council houses on the site. Three would be three-bedroom, and one two-bedroom.

The homes would look out over a shared central green space, which would include a table large enough to seat all four families, and a communal barbecue area.

The cost of the scheme has been redacted from the council documents and “reserved under Part Two” meaning the public and the press will be ordered out of Hove Town Hal before finances are discussed.

A council spokesman said the costs were commercially sensitive, but committee chairwoman Anne Meadows could have insisted they be made public if she wished, as she was urged to do by Tory councillors.

The Argus can reveal the proposed total build cost is £1.104 million, with additional spend on regulations and specialists bringing the total project cost to £1.215 million.

The funds would come from the Housing Revenue Account, meaning council tenants themselves – not council tax payers generally – are the ones being asked to fund the project.

A property developer who has built several projects in the city, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Argus that in the private sector the standard cost for affordable homes would be in the region of £120,000 – not the £300,000 each these would cost.

He explained smaller projects were always more expensive per unit, because they do not benefit from economies of scale, but said “ouch” when told how much the council planned to spend.

“That’s coming at the expense of something else,” he said. “we might be able to build ten houses somewhere else for that money.

“And if I went to my board with a scheme for four houses for £1.2million, I’d be sent away with a flea in my ear.”

If the committee approves the plan, an exhibition will be held, prior to a planning application being submitted.