Corby councillors hit out at developer bid to reduce social housing obligation at Priors Hall

Developers’ hopes of removing all agreed social housing from the Priors Hall development in Corby have stalled after councillors rejected the move.

By Sarah Ward
Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 10:59 am
Corby Cllr Judy Caine said to allow the developer to reduce social housing at Priors Hall is against what the Corby Council stands for.
Corby Cllr Judy Caine said to allow the developer to reduce social housing at Priors Hall is against what the Corby Council stands for.

There were passionate speeches heard in Corby’s council chamber last night as a number of politicians on the Labour-run authority made their feelings known about the move by Urban & Civic to roll back on the existing 2007 106 planning agreement to build 120 sheltered accommodation homes in zone one.

Instead the developer wants to remove the sheltered accommodation obligation entirely, reduce the number of properties down to 75 and take away the social housing element so that all properties are shared ownership schemes. It says the original proposal is ‘not saleable’ and to go ahead would cost £800,000 which it cannot afford.

But after a debate and legal advice, the council decided to defer the decision to put in an additional planning drafted by the authority’s legal officers. The application will then come back before committee.

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Cllr Judy Caine said: “I’m really speechless. We have got to put our foot down as a council. I get fed up with developers putting proposals forward, getting planning and then changing their mind.

“It is against everything Corby stands for as a council.”

Cllr Caine’s sentiments were echoed by Cllr Bob Eyles, who is the lead member for housing.

He said: “It is about time these developers got a social conscience. They cannot rely on councils to provide all the social housing.

“I think it is wrong of Corby Council to even back a thing like this.”

Cllr Anthony Dady also said he was disappointed with the situation and asked planning officers what the applicant could do if the council refused to amend the existing planning agreement.

Officer Edward Oteng said the developer could take a planning refusal to appeal, which could be lost by the council and incur substantial costs in the process.

Prior to the planning meeting, Corby Council had instructed its own viability assessment, contracting White Land Strategies to carry out the work.

However councillors decided to disregard this advice and the planning officer’s recommendation to agree to change the terms of the planning agreement and instead kicked the proposal into touch.

Urban and Civic took over the freehold of the Priors Hall development in 2017 after original developer BELA went into administration, leaving the future of the 5,000-home development near Weldon hanging in the balance.

At the meeting five councillors voted for the deferral while Cllr Eyles and Cllr Watt abstained from the vote. There will be some social housing at Priors Hall after the council said this week it has brought up some properties on the development for council tenants.