Bowes gate Development (20/1406N)
This is an application to make a ‘minor adjustment’ to the original application.(15/1666N). This application was for 11 dwellings to include affordable housing ‘on-site’. Now the developers wish to ‘transfer’ the affordable housing to the development next to the medical centre off Vicarage lane.
Let’s remind ourselves of the consent given to the Vicarage Lane site. The site has a longer than normal planning history that took the size of the development from 12 dwellings (3 affordable to 9 market) down to 7 that were eventually approved (4 ‘town houses’ (terraced), 1 pair of semi-detached & 1 detached) but no affordable housing. At the time of the original application the developer claimed
‘The ethos of this scheme has been to deliver new housing which reflects and respects Bunbury’s distinct historic character and appearance, whilst delivering a mix of houses which meets the needs of the community. ‘
(Supporting Planning Statement – Land at Vicarage lane.)
Subsequently(19/0371N) the developers applied for 8 dwellings all to be town houses. It wasn’t clear why this adjustment had been made. The site did not at the time reach the threshold of 15 dwellings that would require the inclusion of 30% affordable housing. No mention was now made of affordable housing.
The original Bowes Gate application was proposed by the Rural Housing Trust Ltd who sought to build 11 dwellings, 4 socially rented, 4 shared equity, and 3 market houses. They have now sought to build 11 market houses on the Bowes Gate site and designate some or all of the Vicarage Lane dwellings as ‘affordable’ i.e. social renting or shared equity. The details have not been given as yet and technicaly neither site need deliver any afforable housing.
Why would I oppose this move? Three reasons come to mind. First, eight affordable homes will be lost from the Bowes Gate Road development together with the original 3 from the vicarage Lane site. From a total of 11 affordable houses to some unknown number, if any. If the ‘transfer’ of all 8 affordables to the Vicarae Lane, we are still down by 3 from the original total that justifiably, it may be argues, helped get the developers the consent in the first place.
Essentially this is looks like an attempt to up the amount of profit that the developer can obtain overall. In itself, that would seem fairly normal. But from the villages point of view this may come at a cost.The Bowes Gate Road site has considerable ‘potential’ in marketing speak. It will have open view to the south in lies in a very attractive location in Upper Bunbury. Just as we saw in the two Duchy developments I have little doubt we shall see plans for large expensive properties.
We already have enough large expensive 4 – 5 bedroomed houses either built, building or due to start; the Grange has 9, Hill Close another 9, and east off Bunbury Lane , on the new Duchy site, another 9 are due, plus the 9 expected on the Oak Gardens development arriving some time in 2021.
Bunbury has more than delivered it fair share of the ‘executive’ housing and gone above and beyond on meeting its Local Planrequirement. Time to call a halt on this type of speculative land grab. And is it the role of a rural housing trust to deliver this type of property? I hope I am mistaken and they will produce something that meets the needs of the village and those seeking to gain a foothold on the property ladder in the area where they grew up and/or work. When need more semi-detached 3 bedroomed dwellings – an increasingly rare type of housing where the ‘executive’ house
Thirdly, this plan smells of socal ‘cleansing’. The Bunbury Neighbourhood Plan, in line with what I would say is the dominant British trend seeks to maintain a mix house types. With a mix of housing can come to some degree at least a socal mix. Perhaps its more an income mix but the two are related. In a number of reports on planning appications the Cheshire East Officers refer to ‘pepper potting’ of different houseing types and affordable homes across a given site. The Bowes Gate Road site had a large social housing element with a modest but appropriate market sector. Appropriate in the sense that Housing Associations need to self-fund their developments so each one must ‘seed’ the next. Now, the Bowes Gate Road site has the potential to become another Duchy style ‘mega bucks’ development. Nodoudt the land holders will reap a reward as will the rural trust IF they remain the developers and don’t also ‘transfer their interst to the Vicarage Lane site. Wheels and deals?
In the worse case senario therefore we will have a group of 11 market houses designed to generate considerable profit. To help ensure its commercial success, someone thinks it necessay that all social housing is now eliminate from the site. On the Vicarage Lance site, some at least of the dwellings will be reclassied as ‘afforable’. The effect of this shuffling about will be a form of ‘gettoisation’ or a complete lack of mixing. That is bad planning and is socially unhealthy. We don’t become a better society by livving apart, or allowing people to shut themselves away with other ‘People Like Us’.