Tag Archives: Cheese wedges

Woodbridge’s Affordable Cheese Wedges – Smoke and Mirrors

The deserted Suffolk Coastal  offices. Still undeveloped, still unaffordable?

Its been quiet on the Woodbridge Cheese Wedge (aka Suffolk Coastal’s old head office ) front for a long time. Too quiet…

The burning question? That same old story. It seems that the applicant would rather not build the affordable housing (32 units out of 100 dwellings) he is obligated to under policy DM2 of the local plan. Apparently it’s simply not ‘affordable’ – for him.

Suffolk Coastal’s Planning Committee’s response reminds one of jesting Pilate. They washed their hands and delegated agreement of the essential affordable housing provision to their Planning Officers. Who have negotiated a sum of money (a ‘commuted sum’) be paid “to provide affordable housing at the same level as approved, in the event that no affordable housing provider acquires some or all of the affordable housing in a reasonable timescale.

Lets park the cynical phrase  “to provide affordable housing at the same level as approved’ for one moment, and follow the money.

This decision clearly – presumably  unintentionally – gives the applicant an opportunity to elect to pay the commuted sum option instead of building 32 affordable units simply by refusing any offer for affordable units from any provider. (I have heard that at least one realistic offer has been made. )

It would very much benefit the developer to pay the commutated sum. It would provide no benefit whatsoever to the people of Woodbridge.

Why?  The amount the applicant would have to pay NOT to build the 32 affordable homes is a maximum of £100,000 per unit *. Multiply that by 32 and you see he would in effect be paying about £3 million to be allowed to build 32 extra houses of the same size to sell at market prices ( in Woodbridge, that’s a great deal more than £100,000 each). The greater the number of affordable housing units and the higher the sales price of market housing, the greater the incentive to commute.

So, when the Council agreed an increase of residences from 70 to 100, it increased the incentive for the applicant not to provide affordable housing. And by the combination of the Council agreeing an increase in residences and commuting the affordable housing provision, the applicant will receive a multi-million pound windfall. Talk about the law of unintended consequences!  Unless Suffolk Coastal ‘s Planning Committee takes immediate action, it looks like the public asset that is the old Council Offices is earmarked for private profit.

At the same time, that commutated sum of £3million – supposedly to provide “Affordable Housing at the same level as approved” – will do little to benefit the forgotten people of Woodbridge. It will certainly not provide 32 units of affordable housing within Woodbridge which is what we might consider the phrase ‘at the same level as approved’ to mean.

Although £3million is considered by Suffolk Coastal’s planners as fair reparation for NOT building 32 homes on a site that has already been purchased, it will NOT cover the purchase of land, design, planning and building of anything like 32 homes anywhere else! Experts suggest 14 maximum, which is less than half of those guaranteed to the committee and promised to the community. And, of course, wherever these affordable homes are, they will be unlikely to be in Woodbridge, where finding any housing below ‘market’ prices is daily less possible. There is no land within Woodbridge to buy.

How can it be right that an applicant purchasing a public asset gains by not providing the agreed affordable housing the locality so desperately needs? Indeed, has a positive incentive not to provide it?

To say that the development was unpopular was to put it mildly. It was overwhelmingly opposed by the residents of Woodbridge and Melton, the Woodbridge County Councillor (me), Woodbridge Town Council, Melton Parish Council, and local and national organisations, whose views were overridden by the planning officers and planning committee. Its only saving grace was the possibility of affordable housing in situ.

The District Council Planning Committee needs to step up to the plate, rescind its delegation to the Head of Planning, and revert to its October demand for a detailed scheme for the provision of affordable housing on-site and to wholly abandon using the offer of a commutation alternative.

 

*The amount payable by the applicant in the event of commutation is set according to the number of bedrooms per residence in the affordable housing and whether the area  in which the housing is to be provided is categorised high, medium or low cost. Woodbridge is categorised high cost and the figure per residence is in the region of £90,000 -£100,000. Thus a commutation of the 32 affordable residences in Woodbridge would require a commutation payment of about £3 million. How many homes can you buy in Woodbridge for £3 million? How many can you build?

The ‘Giant Cheese Wedges’ at Melton Hill: Have your say, FAST

The planning application for SCDC’s Melton Hill site  (aka the ©Giant Cheese Wedges) was
officially  deposited and validated a week ago, on Friday 30 June. Seemingly, it then took nearly a week to appear online- although the public has only 20 days from the date of validation to comment. This means you have 13 days from today to write to SCDC and comment on the application. Get your skates on, folks. Link here:

Demolish all of the existing offices and surrounding buildings on the site and replace with a high quality housing development providing 100 residential units (33 affordable) (C3) together with a community building (D1) and a retail unit that may be a coffee shop (A1/2/3) or retail unit. A landscape environment free from cars as they are located in an underground car park. Means of access and other associated works. Open for CommentFormer Council Offices Melton Hill Melton Woodbridge Suffolk IP12 1AURef. No: DC/17/2840/FUL | Received: Fri 30 Jun 2017 | Validated: Fri 30 Jun 2017 | Status: Awaiting decision

You may find it quite time-consuming to make your way through the documents as presented online- but the Town Clerk’s office at Woodbridge Town Council has kindly printed out hard copies –  you can go and examine them down there. I warn you, the site elevation showing what the development will look like from the Thoroughfare/Melton Road – although shown in the architect’s plans – is mysteriously absent. So here it is again:

Melton Hill current plan – Delusions of cityscape: Giant single slope roofed towers – suitable for an urban setting but rather out of place in tiny Woodbridge dwarf the town and overlook all neighbouring housing

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I have advised in my previous post on the subject – http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2017/06/25/melton-hill-development-attack-of-the-giant-cheese-wedges/ – your District Councillor, Cllr Mulcahy appears to be the only  one of the Woodbridge District  Councillors you elected who is in a position to help you.  Do ask for her assistance.

However, do ensure you also send in your comments, in person.

The original Melton Hill ‘Community Consensus masterplan’ 2016. Note the trees, frontage and Drummer Boy all in place. 70-odd units. No suggestion anywhere of 6 storey towers.

When commenting, there are many issues:   the impact on historic skylines and views (for example, from Sutton Hoo);  the appropriateness of the current ‘vision’; its huge and unexplained difference from the ‘Community Consensus Masterplan‘ agreed by the people of Woodbridge in autumn 2016, which left the original frontage , trees and Drummer Boy as is (they are all now swept away without explanation, replaced with a concierge block that beggars belief); the introduction of 5 and 6 storey tower blocks; the limited amount of parking planned, which clearly will not serve the number of homes planned and the realistic number of cars and visitors that need catering for; the increase of nearly 50% in the number of properties being proposed (the excess explained by being described as ‘affordable’; the kind of housing being envisioned (‘affordable’ is  defined as 80% of market price. This might mean properties costing up to £700,00-£800,000 at Woodbridge’s current pricing); the impact of this additional housing on the traffic and air quality of an area which already has significant and so far insoluble air quality problems; the propriety of SCDC wanting to monetise this site instead of looking at the legacy benefits of providing for younger, less affluent people, young families, disabled people, and those wanting to downsize within the town they grew up in.

However, amongst these important issues, the most significant issue must be that the sale of the site – by SCDC -can’t go through unless and until planning permission- granted by SCDC – goes through. And if that doesn’t constitute the biggest conflict of interests going- I don’t know what does!

So folks, please, please, sit down and write to SCDC fast. If you want guidance on how best to comment, SCDC provides it (click here)

There will be a meeting of Woodbridge Town Council’s planning Committee on Tuesday 18th July. You can attend (please do). You can speak your mind (if you book a space with the clerk first). But don’t mistake this for action. Woodbridge Town Council is merely a statutory  consultee. Telling them will do little but make you feel better. To have any impact you HAVE to contact Suffolk Coastal and give them reasoned arguments as to why this scheme should not go ahead . “I don’t like the look of it” will not cut the mustard. #justsaying

  • A final point. Having invented it, I really really regret I didn’t copyright   the term “Giant Cheese Wedges“.  If I had, I could have become rich. RICH, I say!  And then I could have bought the site  myself, and transformed it into fair rent and truly affordable housing for truly local young families, disabled people and older people wanting to downsize without penalty – which is what Woodbridge really needs and deserves!