Why major housing plans in Houghton have been turned down by Sunderland City Council

Major housing plans in the Houghton area have been turned down after developers failed to stump up cash to protect nature sites and create school places.

Thursday, 5th September 2019, 16:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th September 2019, 18:47 pm
Sunderland City Council

Councillors discussed proposals for a 50-home estate on parcels of land near Redburn Road and Black Boy Road, Chilton Moor, at a meeting on September 3.

Applicant Gleeson Regeneration Ltd originally applied to build 53 homes but scaled back the plans following issues around drainage.

However, council officers recommended the plans for refusal over the potential impact of the development.

This included increased number of people and domestic animals using the Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve site and pressures around school places.

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Section 106 legal agreements are a common part of the planning process and see developers paying funds to reduce the impact of developments on communities and infrastructure.

For the Chilton Moor plans, Sunderland City Council’s ecologist asked for £92,500 towards site wardens and projects to protect habitats and species.

The council’s education officer also asked for developers to contribute £214,609 towards primary and secondary school provision in the area.

At a meeting to decide the application, councillors heard developers were unable to meet these costs.

A ‘viability assessment’ from the District Valuer concluded developers would only support payments of £50,000 with no affordable housing included.

Coun Mel Speding said it was important to provide affordable homes in the context of the council’s emerging local plan until 2033.

The planning blueprint aims to provide a requirement of least 15% affordable housing on major developments – rather than the current 10%.

Coun Speding told the meeting: “It beggars belief that companies are now coming with the viability issues on a lot of planning applications around building social housing.

“Yet this planning authority has a policy which is 10% and will hopefully be 15%.

“In my opinion, companies need to wake up and smell the coffee on this one, because it’s one of the aspects of what our principles are.

“To deliver some sort of affordable housing whatever it may be.”

Following discussion, Sunderland City Council’s area Development Control Sub-Committee voted to reject the housing bid.

A report prepared for councillors added the benefits of the scheme failed to outweigh its negatives with the plans clashing with several policies.

The size of the planned estate, lack of affordable housing and issues around ecology and education provision were key reasons for the decision.