Sat, 14 Nov 2020
CONCERN has been expressed over the impartiality of a report into the viability of ‘affordable’ units at Hungerford’s 100-home development off Salisbury Road.
As previously reported, developers have now claimed an affordable housing condition attached to the permission is financially ‘unviable’.
They now want planners to completely remove the condition which requires them to provide a proportion of rental homes.
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.
But now developer Wates has said that is not financially viable.
West Berkshire Council planners have demanded a report into the issue be undertaken before they make their recommendation to the council’s western area planning committee, which will make the final ruling.
But at a full, virtual meeting of Hungerford Town Council on Monday, November 2, doubt was cast on the potential impartiality of any such report after it was revealed the developer would be paying for it.
District councillor Claire Rowles (Con, Hungerford and Kintbury) told the meeting: “The current position is that [planners] have requested a consultants’ report be obtained to look at the affordable housing mix which had already been approved, before making any recommendations.”
Town mayor Helen Simpson asked: “Will this be an independent consultants’ report, or is it paid for by the developer?”
Mrs Rowles replied: “That’s a good question.
“I know the developers are paying for it, because that’s been part of the delay in getting it across the line.
“The [case officer] said it’s taking a long time.
“I can’t see anything happening at this time before Christmas.
“It certainly won’t go to the committee before then.”
She vowed to investigate further and to report back on how independent and impartial the report was likely to be.
The latest proposal by developers prompted protests from residents, eight of whom have written to planners to formally object.
One of them, Hugh Stott, suggested the district council, if minded to agree the exemption, “should require a quid pro quo and insist that all the homes have solar panels and heat pumps or the architecture for these to be embedded in the design”.
Another, Tim Bevan, wrote: “When the outline planning permission was granted, the committee made their decision based upon that requirement.
“It was a crucial part of the application.
“If the proposed amendment is granted, it will undermine the whole basis on which the outline planning permission was granted in the first place.
“It will ride a coach and horses through the planning process.
“I very much hope your committee will stand firm.”
Meanwhile, the application to vary the condition can be viewed, and commented on, by visiting the planning section of the district council’s website and using the reference 20/01023/MDOPO.