Affordable home plan for open countryside in Weldon kicked-out after councillor brands it 'crazy'

The scheme was for 22 affordable homes on the edge of Weldon village
How the homes in Weldon might have lookedHow the homes in Weldon might have looked
How the homes in Weldon might have looked

A plan to build 22 discount dwellings on the Weldon boundary has been kicked-out by planners.

Wulff Asset Management had submitted a scheme for the flats and houses on a pasture in open countryside just off Kettering Road in Weldon.

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The homes on the one hectare site would have been sold at 20 per cent below market rate, and would have been a mix of one-bed flats maisonettes to four-bed houses. Sixty per cent would have been rented and forty per cent affordable for sale.

The plan was for 22 homes on the pasture land just outside WeldonThe plan was for 22 homes on the pasture land just outside Weldon
The plan was for 22 homes on the pasture land just outside Weldon

Council officers had recommended the application for approval.

But there were 14 local objections around issues including conservation, privacy, traffic, over-development and loss of open pasture land.

Weldon Parish Council issued a ‘strong objection’ to the scheme for several reasons, including an absence of evidence for a need for more affordable homes in the village, stating: “Cynically, it's our view that this type of development is the only way and opportunity to enhance the value of this land, even when heavily discounted.”

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Councillors unanimously voted against the application so it will now not go ahead.

The application, on the edge of a former quarry, was brought forward by Wulff Asset Management and submitted by Harrison Lamb Planning Consultancy. The two companies have previously managed Tata Steel’s land interests in Corby, although Tata are not named in the planning documents.

The homes would have wrapped around existing properties in Kettering Road.

In documents presented to the Planning Committee (North) meeting that took place last week at the Corby Cube, officer Farjana Mazumder said: “It is accepted that there is a conflict with the development plan in terms of its lack of exception site status and general lack of conformity with the spatial strategy.

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"The proposal would be located in the open countryside but close to existing residential development. However, the perceived harm needs to be balanced with a significant shortage of affordable homes in the authority area. It is considered that the planning balance is in favour of delivering a quantum of affordable housing, where there is an overriding need.”

At the meeting she said that officers were not confident that if the authority refused the application, they would win any subsequent appeal.

Weldon Parish Council’s Cllr Shepard spoke at the meeting. He said: "Unlike most of the land within the parish and surrounding area, the field has remained undisturbed pasture, untouched by ironstone extraction or ploughing throughout living memory.

"The developer will say they wish to develop the site as an entry level exemption scheme under National Planning Policy Framework which permits development on the settlement boundaries where there exists a need for local subsidised housing when no suitable alternative land is available.

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"This is not the case with Weldon which has permitted and outline permitted development for over 6,500 houses within the parish.”

Sam Silcocks, a developer at Harris Lamb Planning consultancy, said: “Entry level exception sites are intended to be an exception to normal planning policy to secure much-needed affordable housing.

“There’s a pressing need for affordable housing in North Northamptonshire and your expert consultees and planning officers confirm this is an appropriate location to develop and entry level scheme.”

Cllr Charlie Best: (Lib Dem, Oundle) “If we still have a need for affordable housing, surely the answer is to incorporate that somehow into the still-ongoing major developments in the area?

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"To me, the solution cannot be just to build 22 houses on a bit of open countryside. It sounds crazy.

"This is not the solution to me and I don’t support it.”

Cllr Lyn Buckingham (Lab, Lloyds): “The thing about affordable housing is that it shouldn’t just be about the affordability but where it’s sited.

"Too often we put affordable housing away from anything else. Anything outside the envelope of the village acts as a stigmatisation for people who can’t afford things, rather than them being part of the village.”

Cllr Simon Rielly (Lab, Oakley) said: “I understand policy but we’re here to have a voice for our communities and it’s important we bring the impact of policy on our communities to these meetings.

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"The fact we’re not building any council houses and the fact we’ve got developers building affordable homes is fantastic but what concerns me is the isolation of affordable homes on a greenfield site there on the edge of Weldon.

"Young families are going to be moving into these homes, we’ve got a busy road there. Church Street is a rat-run from the A43 right out to Oundle.

"Where’s the public transport for affordable homes? There’s not a bus stop. You’ve got people with prams walking for quarter of a mile into Weldon.

"Are there any plans for a play area? I can’t see any.”

Cllr Kevin Watt (Con, Corby Rural) said: “This is creeping expansion. It’s not infill.

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“The bus stop is 500m away, the school even further. They’re not going to walk, are they? They’re doing to take a car. It’s building in car dependency.”

"(Exception sites) don’t have to be exceptionally bad.”

Meeting chair Mark Rowley (Con, Ise) said there had not been any planning reasons to refuse the application raised in the meeting but no councillor would propose or second the recommendation to approve the scheme.

Cllr Best proposed the refusal of the application and his proposal was seconded by Cllr Watt on the grounds of the unsustainability and unsuitability of the site.

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