Friday, 17 November 2017

New homes approved despite smaller 'affordable' element

A DEVELOPER has been given permission to build 17 new homes in Henley despite failing to comply with the town’s neighbourhood plan.

Ashill Land said the development off Greys Road would no longer be viable if 40 per cent of the properties were “affordable”, as required by the plan.

Instead, it offered to build five affordable flats, or 29 per cent, and 12 houses on the commercial estate being sold by merchant drapers M Makower & Co.

It is the second site out of 11 included in the plan where developers have failed to meet the terms of the document but still been given planning permission by South Oxfordshire District Council.

Members of the district council’s planning committee voted six to two in favourof Ashill’s plans after reviewing the company’s viability appraisal.

Deputy Mayor Will Hamilton, who spoke against the plans at the meeting, said he was disappointed by the decision.

“What they said was the site was too small to sustain 40 per cent affordable. I think that’s a concern because how does that affect other sites in the plan?

“They are now at least taking our points on board and it will improve our position with the next application that comes up.

“The reality is we’re doing our best to stand up for our neighbourhood plan. Each of the sites will come forward and developers will take a gamble.

“We will continue to fight each application on its own merits to ensure we get what Henley voted for and affordable housing, particularly for the young.”

Planning officer Emma Bowerman said the proportion of affordable housing proposed by Ashill was acceptable.

In a report to the committee, she said: “Although there is an aspiration that 40 per cent affordable housing will be provided on all development sites, there does have to be some recognition that there may be sites where this would render the development uneconomic and prevent the delivery of any housing.

“The application was accompanied by a viability assessment which concluded that the balance of costs and values associated with bringing forward the site restricted the ability of the development to deliver any affordable housing. Regardless of this position, the applicant took a commercial decision to offer the council five one-bed flats as starter homes.

“The viability appraisal was reviewed on behalf of the council by an independent consultant who concluded that the scheme could support a small surplus.

“Given the outcome of this process, the offer of five affordable homes is welcome and the applicant would forego a normal developer profit to provide this level of affordable housing.”

Ben Boyce, managing director of Ashill, said: “Of course we’re pleased. We have put a lot of effort into the scheme and addressing concerns from residents.

“After the changes were made we got letters of support which is always quite positive and rare in planning.”

Mr Boyce said the scheme had “genuinely” pushed the level of affordable housing as far as possible, adding: “That was borne out by the viability assessment and the committee’s decision.”

He said demolition work would take place by the spring at the latest.

In August McCarthy & Stone was granted  planning permission for 53 “assisted living” units on the site of the former Jet petrol station in Reading Road.

The land was earmarked for about 55 ordinary homes in the neighbourhood plan, which was approved in a referendum in March.

The document says that new developments should comprise an “appropriate range and mix to achieve a balanced community and in particular help meet the needs of those age and income groups who have difficulty finding homes in Henley.”

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