PLANS to build 17 new homes in Mortimer have been approved – but only on the condition that the developer agrees to make five of them affordable.
The applicant, TA Fisher, submitted a report with the application for the dwellings at Fairwinds and land at Tower House, The Street, Mortimer Common, claiming the scheme wouldn’t be viable with affordable housing.
After assessing the report, West Berkshire Council officers said the developer’s claims were ‘justified’.
But councillors did not agree – and last week went against their own officer’s recommendations by unanimously voting to impose a condition that 30 per cent of the homes must be affordable.
At the Eastern Area Planning Committee meeting, where the application was discussed, planning officer David Pearson had warned: “It means the developer does have the right to appeal the condition and we would still face the prospect of defending the appeal with conflicting evidence between the applicant’s and our own assessment, that clearly do not tally.
“I would hope members bear that in mind when making their decision.”
Ward member Graham Bridgman (Con, Mortimer) said: “It seems to me we have four ways forward. We could approve, or refuse.
“We could put in an overidge clause to explain that if the developer makes more profit than anticipated, there is a divvying up of that extra money between the developer and the council.
“Or we could say ‘yes, we are in favour of this in principle’, but do not accept the developer has demonstrated non-viability of affordable housing.”
Councillor Emma Webster agreed, saying: “I have no issues with what is being proposed. The issue for me, fundamentally, comes down to the provision of affordable housing.”
Stratfield Mortimer parish councillor Tony Butcher said: “I have to reiterate the central point here is on the affordable housing.
“I am well aware it is not just for this site, but a widespread issue across the whole area, and indeed the country. Affordable housing is absolutely key to the future of the village.”
Objector Stuart Whitaker expressed concern about the basic design and concept, lack of parking spaces and the site’s close proximity to a school.
He said: “I think visitor parking can reduce crime and neighbourhood disputes. I also think if the all the dwellings had their own parking spot it would make them more attractive to potential buyers.”
However, Steven Smallman for the applicant said: “I do not want use to lose sight of the planning benefits of this site.
“In terms of affordable housing, you have been briefed about the viability assessment and you’ve also seen the viability report from the district valuer.
“There is a stark difference between a scheme with affordable housing and one without affordable housing.”
Mr Smallman said the application had been submitted in response to the council’s need for smaller homes as set out in its Core Strategy.