More planning news : No affordable housing after refusal in Bath

  Posted: 10.02.21 at 17:30 by By Local Democracy Reporter Stephen Sumner

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A developer claims it can no longer pay towards affordable housing after its plans to scale back a Bath estate were rejected.

Hardrock Developments’ revised proposals for former Ministry of Defence land in Warminster Road were thrown out last June amid criticism of the lack of affordable housing and parking, and claims the “incongruous, bulky and overdeveloped” scheme would harm the city’s World Heritage Site setting.

The Bristol-based firm – which bought the site in 2015 for £29million – has challenged those reasons and lodged an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate.

It had offered to pay £644,000 to fund affordable housing elsewhere after claiming it was not viable to build the properties on the site, now known as Holburne Park, in part due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But now papers submitted by the firm ahead of the appeal say: “In light of the refusal of the scheme by the council’s members, and the ongoing costs of construction, impacts of Covid-19 and associated impacts on viability, for the purposes of the appeal the appellant proposes that the affordable housing contribution from the appeal scheme is nil.”

It also said the level of parking will not lead to an unacceptable impact on highway safety, and the scheme will not harm Bath’s World Heritage status.

Bath and North East Somerset Council typically expects developments in prime sites to offer 40 per cent affordable housing.

The original plans for 204 homes at Holburne Park met that target and were approved in 2015.

When Hardrock bought the site it applied to boost the overall number of houses and flats to 246 but reduce the proportion of affordable units to a third, offering a further £400,000 to build more elsewhere.

The developer later warned that the project was at risk of failure if it did not cut the total number of homes to 189. The 70 homes in the appeal would replace 127 currently approved on part of the site.

Hardrock said it was not viable to build affordable homes but offered the council £644,000 to build them elsewhere, £1.1million for infrastructure improvements and a share of the profits if they are more than current forecasts.

Representing the developer at a planning committee meeting last June, planning consultant Charlotte Taylor-Drew said: “My client started construction in 2016. Since then the world has changed dramatically.

“Two General Elections have taken place. Brexit has happened. Coronavirus has had an additional impact on the viability.”

Speaking at the time, Councillor Eleanor Jackson said she had not seen sufficient justification to cut the number of affordable homes, and while the circumstances may be exceptional, all developers faced the same challenges.

The planning committee rejected the application.

B&NES Council is yet to submit its case to the Planning Inspectorate and a date for the hearing has not yet been set.

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