Monday, 16 January 2012

£100k bid to knock down nursery for homes

A DEVELOPER wants to drop its obligation to provide affordable homes at a former Dorridge nursery, and has offered planners £100,000 as an alternative.


Click the headline or link below to read the rest of this story.

They were last year told by bosses they had to find an affordable housing provider to take on two of the six homes (below) at Woolmans Garden Centre off Grange Road.

But the Woolman family says they have been unable to find a provider “due to management and service charge concerns”.

It has instead offered Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council £100,000 to approve a scheme with no affordable housing. See the application here.

The affordable houses would have had two and three bedrooms.

The site has not been used since 2005 and was home to five glass houses which have now been demolished.


The planning application says: “We have shown that there is considerable environmental benefit in the removal of a derelict building of substantial scale and replacement with a much smaller development of high quality rural style buildings.”

It would have a “much more limited impact” than a fully operational garden centre, it said.

The development is for Green Belt land and the applicant has to argue there is “very special circumstances” for it to be approved.

Two people left comments on the council’s website opposing the previous plan.

Tony Smith said he was concerned he had not been told the development would have affordable housing.

David Murphy said he was “concerned with the precedent that agricultural land on green belt land will be replaced with houses”.

And he said the centre were “agricultural buildings” and therefore not a busy as a garden centre.

He said: “The land could be cultivated or made available for sporting activities or allotments. The proposed houses offer no advantage to the local community.”

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  1. I presume somebody is checking whether this offer constitutes bribery under the new law.

  2. The £100k was already agreed with the council when permission was given last year as a "back up" in case a housing provider could not be found. It would be given as "section 106" money, which is an entirely legal mechanism where developers give cash for community improvements e.g. a supermarket would have to pay for changes to the road network to cope with an increase in traffic.

  3. Thanks for clarifying

  4. And having said thanks and re-read the article it definitely gives the impression that the £100,000 is being made available if the obligation to build affordable homes is dropped. It's an entirely different scenario to a developer paying for infrastructure around a development which should be a basic requirement of any approval anyway. If affordable housing is a requirement of any development it shouldn't be a negotiating position to be able to offer a financial incentive as an alternative in my opinion.

  5. Can see your point, the developer says this proposal is after "detailed consultation" (see link in story) with the council, so let's hope the council was thorough in its investigations into whether finding a housing provider was not possible.

  6. SMBC have always had a position that ideally affordable housing should be provided on site, but to ensure that the affordability is provided in perpetuity it is necessary to have some organisation or system to ensure that the subsidy doesn't just go into the first buyer's pocket.

    With the high land prices and relatively small developments locally, developers have normally been able to demonstrate that it has not been possible to find a housing association prepared to administer one or two houses, so these schemes don't work. SMBC then takes an option to fund affordable housing elsewhere in the borough. That in itself has been unfortunate as I have seen schemes where they have taken the position where in moving an affordable scheme from Knowle and Dorridge to the North of the borough, they have moved the obligation in terms of units, not in terms of value.

    Having been aware of the history of this development, I have every reason to believe that the original offer was made in good faith with the intention of it being fulfilled.

    Finally, it would be very difficult for SMBC to turn this down having already taken a decision in favour of development. In their previous decision they said:

    "The proposal constitutes inappropriate development in the Green Belt and as such is contrary to both development plan and national policies (Policy C2 and PPG2). However, the redevelopment of the site provides significant material benefits in terms of visual amenity, openness and landscape against the continuation and possible intensification of the existing nursery use and buildings currently located on the site. Clearly these issues are finely balanced, but given the sustainable location of the site for housing development these benefits cumulatively amount to the very special circumstances needed to outweigh the harm that would arise to the Green Belt."

    Note that no mention of affordable housing was used in that justification of use of Green Belt so they would be deemed as unreasonable for rejecting on that basis now.

  7. Woodchester Road Resident19 January 2012 at 09:22

    I can understand why one or two "affordable units" would not be economically viable, but why can the whole site not be made available for this much needed resource?

  8. If SMBC want ensure that the affordability is provided in perpetuity then surely they are the ideal candidate to ensure that the subsidy doesn't just go into the first buyer's pocket. SMBC themselves should be able to manage a couple of 'social housing' properties just like they manage a couple here and there in other areas of the Borough (the Planners do actually converse with the Housing Department don't they ?).

  9. It would probably be worth contacting Councillor Ian Courts about this. He has a particular interest in this and if SMBC could be encouraged to find a solution, he is probably best placed to follow it through.

  10. Why shouldn't the automatic fallback to a developer saying they can't find an administrator be for the council to take on the affordable housing - tell the developer they'll be building council houses if they can't find a housing association and tell them what budget they'll be working to.

  11. I'm still waiting for my affordable house on Lady Byron Lane ...

  12. Why on earth do we have to provide affordable houses all the while....certain areas of this borough have nothing but council owned premises, but are massively neglected by the tennants. Where is the benefit in working hard, saving and planning if you give some people everything on a plate. If youre prepared to pay the council charges, fuel and bills on a massive house in lady byron lane, well go ahead...ask yourself why you want to live there rather than where you are may find the answers inside yourself.