26th Oct, 2020

Planners approve one-bed flats plan to convert old Church Hill Medical Centre

Ross Crawford 18th Sep, 2020

BOROUGH planners have approved proposals to convert the old Church Hill Medical Centre into 19 one bedroom flats.

However in doing so they went against the council’s own planning guidance on the need to provide social housing.

The medical centre, which fronts the Church Hill Way bus route, has been derelict for a number of years.

A previous planning application for a mix of 16 houses and apartments, including an element of social housing – ‘affordable housing’ – had been approved in 2016.

However with that permission now expired the plans had come back before council, this time for 19 apartments over three floors with no provision for social housing.

The borough’s own local plan requires the provision of 30 per cent affordable housing on sites of 11 or more dwellings.

However the developer argued that should social housing be a requirement the scheme would be financially unviable.

Local Councillor Bill Hartnett (Lab, Church Hill) moved an amendment asking for council officers to negotiate some form of social housing with the developer, however this was defeated five votes to four.

“How much does a developer make on a project, 20 to 25 per cent? Putting in some social housing would have cut that to 17 to 18 per cent it’s putting profitability above policy.”

However when it came to voting on the development as recommended by officers, Coun Hartnett said he backed it on the grounds that something was at last being done about a derelict site in the Church Hill centre.

The plans include one parking space per property and secure cycle storage for residents.

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