Saturday, 6 June 2009

St Modwen development rejected

The Planning Applications Committee accepted officers' recommendations and rejected the proposed redevelopment by St Modwen of the Corus site on Whessoe Road. The officers had asked for 75 "affordable" units on the site (out of a total of 250), while St Modwen had offered none.

St Modwen claim they had been unable to progress pre-Committee discussions with officers due to key people on both sides being away on holiday over the half-term period. They also say the decision on this project was brought forward to the earliest possible date so that the Council could tick the appropriate box in terms of speed of handling planning applications. They asked for the decision to be deferred to the next cycle of the planning committee to allow time for more discussions to take place.

A senior Labour councillor on the committee spoke in favour of rejection and the committee voted accordingly.

There must be more to this than holidays and ticky boxes getting in the way. There is clearly a fundamental disagreement between officers and developers here. After all, proposing that there should be NO affordable housing (albeit that there's not exactly a shortage of affordable housing in that part of town which has row upon row of cheap housing available in the terraces off North Road) is guaranteed not to be acceptable to officers and doesn't sound like a good basis for starting a negotiation.

I hope St Modwen will bring a new plan back to the Council, and get their discussions completed well before the planning cycle gets under way. I may have missed something here, but why can't planners and developers sit down and thrash this thing out in general terms - what would be acceptable to the Council on the one hand and what the development could sustain financially on the other hand - and bring forward a project that satisfies both parties?

It is in everyone's interest that this land is redeveloped, so why was this scheme brought forward in a form St Modwen must have known would not be acceptable? And why are we talking about this in confrontational terms? Both parties - and representatives of the local community - need to sit down and sort this out before they get locked into a formal planning process.

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