Developer requests not to contribute £100,000 for affordable housing
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A developer which built a block of flats in Dereham is requesting permission from Breckland Council not to provide a £100,000 sum to pay for affordable housing.
The 12 one-bedroom flats, opposite the Romany Rye Wetherspoon hotel and pub on Church Street, received planning permission in 2013 on condition that four of the flats be classed as ‘affordable’.
In 2014, the developer applied for permission to instead provide a sum of money, which could be used by the council to help pay for the creation of affordable housing elsewhere. That sum was set at £101,235.85.
Now, the developer, Acorn Building Services, is requesting permission not to have to pay that sum, saying that it would impact too severely on their profits and make the entire project unviable - even though the flats have already been built.
A viability assessment, prepared by Parker Planning Services, lays out how the construction costs, land cost, legal, conveyancing and other fees mean the developer is instead facing a loss of £471,852.62, even without any of the flats being classed as ‘affordable’.
Breckland Council’s planning committee will make a decision on whether to remove the financial requirement at a meeting on Tuesday, July 5.
Dereham Town Council has made a formal objection to the application, stating: “Councillors object to this as the financial contribution should be used elsewhere.
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“Councillors do not believe the development has been a loss for the developers, who should be made to stick to the original conditions.”
Philip Morton, a Green town and district councillor in Dereham, said the request seemed unreasonable: “To apply several years after the building of these flats appears an abuse of the system.”
Breckland Council’s planning officers are recommending that the committee grant permission for the removal of the financial contribution, but only if the council’s external contractor confirms that it would be unviable for the developer to provide the sum.
The flats were built on the site of the town’s former library, which moved into a modern building on the High Street in 2005.
The building was left empty for a number of years, and became increasingly derelict and vandalised.
It was at one stage proposed to become an Indian restaurant, but was eventually demolished.
The application to remove the contribution requirement can be viewed by visiting breckland.gov.uk/planning/search and searching for reference 3OB/2022/0010/OB