Clevedon to lose thousands in new levy deal

PUBLISHED: 08:15 24 November 2015

Building work going on, homes and flats  Marine Parade, Clevedon.

Building work going on, homes and flats Marine Parade, Clevedon.

Archant

North Somerset will lose out on thousands of pounds, after councillors reduced a developer’s signed community grants requirement because it said it could not afford it.

The decision, which relates to Acorn Property Group building nine homes in Clevedon, was ‘reluctantly’ made by North Somerset Council’s planning committee who feared losing an appeal.

Several people campaigned against the idea, with resident Richard Hamilton-James saying it is ‘outrageous’ a developer can go back on a signed agreement because it does not expect to make as much money as forecasted.

In October 2014, North Somerset granted planning permission for Acorn’s development in Marine Parade and both sides agreed the developer would pay £102,001 when work began to pay for affordable housing and education.

However, the developer said the construction project was more expensive than envisaged and asked it to be reduced to just £20,000. Negotiations between it and the council led to members voting in favour of a £45,000 figure, plus extra if the property market prices rise significantly. That money will now be paid when the last home is sold or leased out.

The planning meeting, held on November 11, came shortly after housing minister Brandon Lewis MP had told councils they needed to be flexible with section 106 community grants to help developers.

Cllr Felicity Baker said Mr Lewis’ letter was ‘not worth the paper it was written on’, following Mr Lewis’ refusal to reduce the number of houses which must be built by 2026.

She said: “I have a great deal of sympathy with what Mr Hamilton-James said, but I don’t want to make the residents of Clevedon even poorer and I don’t believe for one minute that if it went to an appeal we would do any better.

“Brandon Lewis can’t be trusted. He has let us down over the core strategy (housing requirement) and all sorts of things.”

Cllr Colin Hall said he ‘reluctantly’ agreed to it, but several voted against the plan.

Cllr Tom Leimdorfer said it made the council look like a ‘soft touch’, while Cllr David Shopland said the £45,000 was an ‘insult’ given the large profits developers tend to make from their projects.

Cllr Shopland said: “The original agreement was for £102,000.

“The developer knew that before he started... and if he got his figures wrong then that is no concern of ours.

It is offiering £45,000. That is an insult to our intelligence. It is the price of good car.

“Whether the houses are built isn’t our concern, but what is our concern is that our taxpayers get a good return.

“We aren’t here to haggle, but to make decisions.”

The vote in favour of reducing the developer’s contribution was passed by a majority.

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