Affordable housing and thousands in community benefit payments DROPPED as council prepares to accept £10k instead to allow 28 homes to be built in March

Berryfield development where 28 houses were approved six years ago.But a viability study has now rul

Berryfield development where 28 houses were approved six years ago.But a viability study has now ruled out any affordable housing. - Credit: Archant

New social housing promised as part of a controversial agreement for 28 houses in March has been dropped.

Fenland Council will be told the overall scheme for Berryfield is in jeopardy unless a section 106 (community benefit) scheme is abandoned.

A viability assessment drawn up on behalf of A & K Fink of Kingswood Road, March, who are buying the land from the Wilkinson family, say that if the scheme went ahead as planned it would lose money.

Maxey Grounds, who have submitted the viability study to Fenland Council, say that as things stand the developers could lose up to a £1m based on current market values.

Dropping a 25 per cent agreement for affordable/social housing is proposed and this would bring the deficit down to £229,000 says the report.

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Maxey Grounds says removing all 106 requirements would reduce the deficit to £27,000.

"As such the site is not viable for development on the basis of the provision of affordable housing and other S106 contributions of the level proposed," says their report.

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"If the requirement for affordable housing and other S106 were removed, the site still appears marginally non-viable unless the developer is to accept a profit level below 17.5 per cent."

Planning consent for the scheme was given six years ago and the viability study drawn up in 2018. It is now about to go to the planning committee to rubber stamp the loss of affordable housing and other contributions.

The original S106 - now not worth the paper it was written on - allowed to 25 per cent affordable with a 70:30 split between affordable rented and intermediate tenure.

The developers would also have had to pay thousands in contributions towards the expansion of Westwood junior schools, £3,000 to March library, £25,000 towards play space, and £25,000 towards information package for March rail station.

Senior planning officers will tell councillors that "the figures used in the viability assessment are within the typical range to be expected for a development of this type".

Admitting there are indeed "viability issues" officers say they are minded to accept an offer of £10,000 towards public open space. This, they said, would be used for the Estover playing fields.

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