A large chunk of affordable housing in a proposed massive development in Arlesey is at risk because of ‘viability issues.
Arlesey Town Council (ATC) is objecting to the scheme, which goes before Central Bedfordshire Council next week, stating there is non-compliance with the 2014 Arlesey Cross Masterplan.
But CBC planners have recommended the scheme, for up to 950 homes, an 80 bedroom extra care unit, lower school, employment and retail space and a hotel and provision for a new doctors surgery and dentist on land at Chase Farm, for outline approval.
The council’s own housing development officer has objected to the scheme saying: “The scheme is expected to deliver a policy compliant level of affordable housing with the provision of 35% affordable housing (up to 333 units).”
The developer is offering 20% affordable housing and is also cutting back on developing employment land which ATC says will cut the amount of land by almost a half and reduce long term jobs that could be created from 1,124 to 729.
In its objections to the scheme ATC said: “The provision of local employment opportunities was one of the key elements of the masterplan and ATC, supported by the ward councillors, is keen to ensure that this employment provision is delivered and that Arlesey does not become a dormitory town.
“The application, together with the issues with the delivery of the western relief road, suggests that the masterplan is being shown to be seriously flawed. Every application that has been submitted in relation to the masterplan has shown significant deviation from it, thereby calling the entire masterplan into question.”
The developers say a gas main on the eastern side of the site reduces the developable land significantly but ATC hit back, saying the presence of the gas main was known when the masterplan was accepted.
“Furthermore, Woods Hardwick, CBC’s planning consultants, were heavily involved in both the creation of the masterplan and its application and yet have come up with dramatically different conclusions as to what is possible,” ATC said.
They also rejected a report from the developers saying they had spoken to all the stakeholders involved in the site, saying ATC had not been approached.
“Therefore the report has failed to take account of one of the key stakeholders to Arlesey Cross with a huge amount of local knowledge which may have resulted in a different conclusion.”
CBC council officials say a viability assessment by the developers: “fully demonstrates that the development cannot deliver full policy complaint affordable housing due to viability issues and given those constraints an acceptable level of affordable housing and proportionate contributions have been secured. In relation to the employment land, having regard to the constraints of the site, an appropriate level of employment to support the growth can be realised.”
The report says the costs have been independently reviewed and “concluded as being as a result of heavy infrastructure costs.
“A review mechanism will be included as part of any s106 agreement to capture an uplift in affordable housing if market conditions improve.”
The applicant Telereal Ventures Ltd is part of Telereal Trillium who describe themselves as “one of the UK’s largest property companies, owning and managing a £6.5bn portfolio with a total floor area of 61 million sq ft.”