Claims about 'unviable' Hungerford's Lancaster Park development have been shot down
CLAIMS that affordable homes at Hungerford's controversial Lancaster Park development are unviable have been shot down in flames.
Permission was originally granted for the project, in the face of fierce local opposition, subject to the condition that it would include 40 ‘affordable’ homes comprising 28 rented homes and 12 offered as shared ownership.
Developers Wates then claimed the condition rendered the project financially ‘unviable’ and sought its removal.
The bid triggered more than 70 formal objections from residents.
But a planning officer's report stated: "There is insufficient evidence that a policy compliant provision of affordable housing will not be financially viable."
It quoted official guidance which states: "Under no circumstances will the price paid for land be a relevant justification for failing to accord with relevant policies in the plan, without justification, other than profit."
The decision was welcomed by Hungerford Town Council as "a fantastic outcome for the town."
The town council said in a statement: "We are pleased to advise West Berkshire Council has refused the application from Wates to modify the original planning obligations for the new development off Salisbury Road.
"The developers will now need to abide by the...agreement made to provide 40 affordable dwellings, 28 of these being social rented dwellings and 12 shared ownership.
"Following an independent viability study West Berkshire Council concluded that the previously agreed provision of affordable housing is viable. Wates had wished to change the split of affordable housing so that all 40 affordable dwellings were of intermediate/shared ownership tenure."
The town council had objected on the following grounds:
(blob) the percentage of social rent dwellings was a crucial part of the original approved planning application
(blob) the reduction in number of social rent dwellings would have a negative impact on local residents and local house rental prices
(blob) the application undermines the district council's own Local Plan, which states there should be 40 per cent affordable housing on greenfield sites
(blob) the developers have already signed a legal agreement of S106
The statement continued: "At our full council meeting in December 2020, we further voiced our concern to West Berkshire Council at the attempt being made by Bewley Homes, Wates Management and the owners of the land south of Priory Road to deprive West Berkshire families of much needed social rented homes, and to renege on the formal contractual commitments they signed in 2017 and their promises made to the town via press releases and public meetings.
"A large number of residents had also expressed their concerns about the application through the planning portal, further underlining the position taken by Hungerford Town Council."
It concluded: "This is a fantastic outcome for the town and we wish to thank West Berkshire Council and our district councillors for their actions in bringing forward the right decision."