£140,000 one off payment to Fenland Council agreed after social housing deal involving a Wisbech developer and a former Manea councillor collapses
- Credit: Archant
House builders Peter Humphrey and former Fenland councillor Pop Jolley have reached agreement with Fenland Council to hand over £140,000 instead of providing four affordable homes on a site at Manea.
The deal, struck before Christmas, will end a long running dispute that began after permission for 14 homes at Station Road was given on condition four of them were sold off to a housing association to ease demand for low cost homes.
However the only housing association willing to consider taking on the homes – Rentplus – dropped out in a dispute over warranties.
Now Fenland Council appear to have agreed to accept a one off cash settlement of £140,000 with the developers free to sell the homes – individually valued at £140,000 – on the open market.
Fenland’s chief planning officer Nick Harding had criticised the developers for not ensuring the warranties were in place.
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Last September, exasperated by the delays, he wrote telling them “I will only consider a cash alternative as an absolute last resort and on the basis that the position is no worse than the Rentplus deal”.
Mr Humphrey replied that “we are still shocked that Rentplus have withdrawn from this site”.
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However in a separate email he told Mr Harding the withdrawal “does not come as any surprise if I am honest as I believe they have not been 100 per cent committed to this site.”
In November 2015 Mr Humphrey wrote to planning officers stating that “Pop (Jolley) and I would like to meet with you to agree the way forward once and for all.
“It is clear that Fenland District Council has imposed a Section 106 (community benefit) on the site which cannot be implemented as there are no RSLs (registered social landlords) who want to take these four affordable houses on!”
In one email, however, Mr Harding reminded them that the S106 had been freely entered into and it was the developers’ responsibility to find a social housing provider.
“The S106 requires you to submit an affordable housing scheme rather than the council,” Mr Harding told them in January of last year.
“So it is not correct to state that it is the council’s job to find an RSL to take the affordable units.”
He argued that cash in lieu settlement was not out of the question but that “any deal struck must be backed up by appropriate evidence as otherwise the process will not be transparent”.
Valuation of the four homes, due for completion shortly, has been carried out by William H Brown of behalf of Mr Jolley of School Lane, Manea.
The original application to build on the site was submitted by Norman Fox of March who has sold several of the plots; other plots are owned by Mr Humphrey through his Portman Developments Ltd company and by Mr Jolley through Poppyfield Investments.
Mr Humphrey and Mr Jolley undertook responsibility for the social housing provision as part of an arrangement made with the applicant.