Lewes planners have agreed to amend conditions surrounding a major housing developer in Ringmer due to issues with a legal agreement to provide affordable homes.
Lewes District Council’s planning committee gave its consent to alter conditions for a 77 home development at the Caburn Field site last night (Wednesday April 3).
Approved at a meeting in February, the conditions of the original planning permission had required 23 affordable homes to be built on site as part of a wider legal agreement.
However, the committee heard, this agreement had reached an impasse – as neither Lewes District Council or its housing partners are currently able to purchase the homes – preventing the full planning permission from being granted.
It also prevents Ringmer Football Club from moving to a new home at King’s Academy as work cannot begin on improved sporting facilities until the housing development gains full planning permission.
Explaining the situation to the committee, senior specialist planning advisor Andrew Hill said: “The agreement required 23 affordable dwellings to be agreed with Lewes District Council’s housing officer.
“We also explained at that time how the development of this site was linked to the provision of the new sports facility – the football club – which the school will use.
“[Developers] can’t start this development at all until that facility is up and running.
“These are all linked applications and there is a degree of urgency to bring it forward.”
Mr Hill said work was still underway to ensure all 23 affordable homes are provided on site, with the council seeking a grant from Homes England to support their purchase.
But, he added, it was necessary to have an alternative plan added to the conditions of the legal agreement in order for the planning permission to move ahead.
This alternative would just 11 affordable homes built on site, with developers offering the council £480,000 towards providing 12 affordable homes elsewhere.
Prior to the meeting, committee members altered the wording of the conditions further so that the alternative affordable homes would provided only within the parish of Ringmer.
The committee heard this alternative would be part of a ‘cascade’ process, meaning it would only take effect if the original agreement could not be fulfilled.
Cllr Tom Jones (Con. – Ditchling and Westmeston) said: “This has been a long, hard and at times difficult struggle to get where we are now.
“The end is in sight and what we have to do is decide on whether we are going to accept the proposal which is before us tonight.
“We desperately need affordable housing and what we have before us is, I think, a very commendable solution to achieving the 23 we are talking about now.
“I would urge all of us to seriously consider the penalties of not approving this tonight, of further delay and how will that affect this plan in the whole.”
While the amendment was approved by the committee, some concerns were raised by councillors over the potential to lose 12 affordable homes from the site.
These fears were also raised by Ringmer ward councillor Johnny Denis (Green) and Ringmer Parish councillor John Kay during representations to the committee.
Cllr Kay also criticised Lewes District Council for not better communicating the reasons for the amendment and the fact it would go back before the committee.
Cllr Denis meanwhile called for a ‘more transparent’ financial viability process during planning applications.
Following some discussion the amendments were approved, with six votes in favour and one abstention.
For further details see application reference LW/18/0808 on the Lewes District Council website.