Developer pulls plan for 873 new Plymouth homes in council row
A £160 MILLION housing development that would have transformed the north of Plymouth appears to have been sunk without trace.
“This is a disaster. I don't think we'll be back,” the developer behind a proposal to build 873 homes in the Seaton area said after Plymouth City Council planning committee sent his application back for more negotiations.
“We have done the negotiating,” Richard May told The Herald later. “The opportunity has been lost. There is no more in it.”
The Hawkins Family Trust which is behind the scheme, had offered to deliver 20per cent of affordable housing along with 38.67 hectares for the proposed Derriford Community Park, plus land for an education centre, a city farm and a major new road.
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But councillors on Plymouth City Council planning committee said they wanted 30per cent affordable housing and less risk to the taxpayer from future transport headaches.
Cllr Patrick Nicholson (Con, Plympton St Mary) proposed deferring the hearing for more negotiations to increase the level of affordable housing to 30per cent and to ensure that the council would not have to pick up the tab for any later highways issues.
After councillors backed a deferral by ten votes to one, Mr May told The Herald: “This is a disaster as far as I’m concerned. I don’t think we’ll be back.
He said the offers on the table were already “very substantial contributions”, which included the land to build the proposed Forder Valley Link Road, which would relieve congestion on Tavistock Road.
“The councillors didn’t take into account that they don’t have the land for this road,” Mr May said.
Cllr Bill Stevens, the committee chairman, admitted afterwards that a number of developments in Plymouth had been approved with only 20per cent of affordable housing.
But he said: “This is a landmark scheme on a major site in the north of the city, where affordable housing is currently well below the city average.
“If we are serious about creating properly mixed communities and at the same time helping young people to get their first foot on the property ladder, then insisting on a reasonable level of affordable housing is key.”
During the meeting councillors heard that planning officers had carried out a viability study of the scheme which showed that 20per cent of affordable housing was the maximum that could be expected.
But Cllr Paul Jarvis (Lab, Eggbuckland) said 20per cent of affordable housing and eight homes for the disabled was not enough.
He said the city’s core strategy was for 30per cent of affordable homes in large developments, “but every time we sit here it comes down to 20per cent”.
Transport officer Philip Heseltine said the proposed Forder Valley Link Road would cost an estimated £25million. Of that, 70per cent would come from government funding, £2million from the developer and the rest from the council.
The road could be completed by December 2020 and would link the north of the city with Sherford new town and the planned Deep Lane park and ride site.
The northern end of the link road would be built in phase one and form a “high street” for the development, with shops and offices.
The rest of the road would have to be built after the first 350 homes were completed.
Cllr Nicholson said: “We need to make sure we get a fair development that meets the needs of the council but doesn’t transfer a huge liability to the taxpayer.
“We are saying that a lot of development can take place up front without the infrastructure to support it.
“There are huge highways and other issues that could fall back on the council.”
He wondered whether the council was being “backed into a corner”.
Paul Barnard, the city’s chief planner, said officers were confident that funding could be secured for the link road.
He said a very substantial agreement on developer’s contributions would deliver “significant community benefits”.
Committee chairman Cllr Stevens said: “We need to revise affordable housing. There must be scope for more. I would be amazed if there wasn’t.
“We have to stand firm and abide by our policies.
“With sites of this magnitude and importance there are no second chances.”