By Carl Jackson 31/05 Updated: 07/06 12:23
PLANS to build 229 homes in Cofton Hackett were approved on Monday (May 28), despite developers St Modwen admitting they could only deliver 36 affordable homes.
Bromsgrove District Council policy usually dictates that 40 per cent of new homes built are affordable. But, the company claimed providing 80 social rent/shared ownership properties was not viable because of the recession, cost of infrastructure and cost of clearing the brownfield former Rover works site.
And, after negotiations, which first requested 35 per cent of the properties be affordable, the figure, at 15 per cent in this first phase of development, was agreed on.
The firm did, however, vow to try and make up the shortfall in further developments which will see 725 houses built overall on the land.
Despite that, and several memers expressing disappointment about the low percentage of affordable housing, the planning committee gave the green light to the proposals from St Modwen and Persimmon Homes with a majority vote.
Committee vice-chairman John Ruck said: "I wasn't happy with their reasons, but St Modwen is an honourable company with an honourable reputation.
"You would assume it will be able to make up the shortfall in following phases."
Bromsgrove Labour group leader Coun Peter McDonald labelled the move 'disgraceful', describing it as 'absolutely horrifying'.
"We are in dire need of affordable housing and the applicants are using the economic climate as an excuse.
"Everybody knew the site was contaminated from the beginning.
"They have let Bromsgrove down."
But Richard Hickman, planning manager for St Modwen rebuffed the claims, saying the company had not reduced the affordable housing.
"The 35 per cent figure is a target set by the Area Action Plan, and 15 per cent is the level that is viable and achievable.
"It has been approved by the council’s independent expert.
"The costs associated with clearing brownfield sites like Longbridge, compared to more straightforward greenfield sites, have all impacted."
Mr Hickman also confirmed there was scope to re-assess viabilty for further developments which may see a larger number of affordable homes.
A motion by Labour members to defer the application, pending an investigation into how it was handled, was lost, leading to them walking out.
Their claims surrounding a meeting between committee members and the developers on Sunday (May 27) not being within planning rules were refuted by the council's legal representative who said everything that had taken place had been above board.
Bromsgrove District Council’s portfolio holder for planning and regeneration Coun Kit Taylor said the council had to be pragmatic when looking at the number of affordable homes against the cost of developing the barren site.
He added there was an agreement in place whereby the council could nominate people for half of all the new properties across the Longbridge site, whether they were in the district's area or Birmingham City Council's.
And he said that would help counteract the necessary reduction in the percentage of affordable housing on the Bromsgrove side.
“Independent research shows the extremely high cost to any developer of making the land where the old Longbridge factories stood suitable for homes.
"We hope the housing market will become more buoyant and enable us to claw back additional affordable housing from the developers on subsequent phases of the redevelopment of the site, and we will continue to ensure we balance sustainable development, economic growth and jobs.”
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