This application has taken a long time to get approval but earlier this week Shropshire Council gave outline planning permission for 74 houses and apartments in the former brick quarry. There will no affordable homes on site and the developer will only have to pay affordable housing contribution if profits from the site are higher than expected. This is because of the costs of providing a retaining wall to protect the development from the quarry face and decontaminating the site. Nearly half the homes will be two-bedroom.
This is only outline permission. The developer now has three years to submit a full application (called reserved matters in planning jargon).
The approved plans are for 74 homes and apartments, a density of 41 dwellings per hectare. There will be 134 car parking spaces (16/03096/OUT). A block furthest from Fishmore Road will have 28 two-bedroom flats. Eight of the semidetached houses will also be two bedrooms. The rest of the homes will be two and three-bedroom properties.
This is not an easy site to develop. The mudstone quarry face is unstable. The ground has been levelled with seven metres of clay, brick, tile, ash, sandstone, coal and tile. There is evidence of ground contamination and methane emissions.
Plans to develop this site were first submitted in 2006. Planning permission was granted but lapsed when no development took place. The latest application was submitted in July 2016. Final approval was delayed while discussions on affordable housing took place. The developer argued that the costs of decontamination of the site and building a retaining wall meant that any provision of affordable housing would make the development unviable. A viability assessment was submitted by the developer and Shropshire Council has agreed the normal requirement for 15% affordable housing will not apply to this site. However, if the developer makes more than 25% profit, 20% net, a clawback clause will be triggered and payment will be made into the council’s affordable housing fund. This is known as an overage agreement and is essential as the housing market is volatile and sale prices can rise quickly. They can also fall.
The 2016 viability assessment gave estimated sale prices.
The viability assessment also revealed the developer would pay £77,500 in professional and planning fees. The development, on 2015 estimates, will cost £6.7m. The ground is contaminated. That will cost £200k to clean up. The retaining wall against the Raglan Mudstone quarry face will cost £835k. Piling will be required for 10 dwellings costing £125k. Gas membranes under the houses, contingency funds, agents’ fees, interest costs. All these and more have been included in the calculations.
This is the case against paying for affordable housing and I certainly can’t make a judgement on it. However, the overage agreement with the council means that affordable housing payments will be based on the final profitability of the scheme.
We need affordable social housing. But we also need homes for young people wanting to get on the housing ladder. The developer aims to provide 36 two-bedroom homes. That’s really welcome in Ludlow and South Shropshire where developers seem programmed to only supply three and four bedroom “executive” homes.
The developer will pay an estimated £230,320 towards local services through the community infrastructure levy. Some of this money should be used to improve pedestrian safety at the roundabouts by the railway bridge and in East Hamlet beside One Stop.
Back in 2006, the plan was to develop this site and the former Whittles depot as one development. I still think the two developers should work more closely with each other on final designs. But we do need to get on with developing this site which is an eyesore. The extra traffic will not be welcomed but we are in desperate need of smaller homes in walking distance of the town centre.