Hundred home plan for former council offices withdrawn by developer
PUBLISHED: 10:27 12 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:37 05 September 2018
Uncertainty surrounds the future of a controversial housing project today – after developers withdrew their application for 100 new homes to replace vacant council offices in Woodbridge.
Plans to redevelop the Melton Hill site, occupied by Suffolk Coastal District Council until December 2016, were approved by the council’s planning committee last October, despite more than 330 objections.
However, the final decision was deferred until April, as councillors sought to resolve a number of issues – chiefly, the delivery of affordable housing.
The committee agreed to 32 affordable units in two blocks – one less than originally proposed by Active Urban Property Group, due to “market concerns” of registered providers taking on separate units in open market housing blocks.
The council’s head of planning, Philip Ridley, was given authority to issue the final go-ahead.
In a letter dated last Thursday, he wrote that the applicants were able to attract only one expression of interest from a registered provider – to take on just 16 units for affordable rent.
Mr Ridley wrote that the committee’s original resolution would allow for the shortfall to be made up by a commuted sum of £1.5million.
But, last week, the applicants informed Mr Ridley that the provider no longer wanted the 16 units, and that no other provider was interested – instead suggesting the possibility of vacant building credit (VBC) – introduced to give developers a financial credit for the amount of vacant building floorspace brought back into use or demolished, offset against affordable housing contributions.
The day after Mr Ridley’s letter concluded VBC would not be applicable on the site, the council revealed a letter from the applicant, requesting the application be withdrawn with immediate effect.
The homes were due to be contained within 14 blocks, up to five storeys high, with a community and café space, pedestrian thoroughfare to the river, and underground parking.
Some opponents labelled the design “cheese wedges”, and were concerned about height and density, but planners felt it was bold, with an “acceptable and positive approach”.
It has yet to be confirmed whether or not the applicant will submit a fresh proposal.