A DRAMATIC renegotiation of the planning permission granted on Stratford-upon-Avon's old cattle market site is under way after the developers have decided that their original scheme is now unviable.
The Herald can exclusively reveal that the developers, Redrow, are now seeking to cancel proposals for an office block and build additional housing instead.
Controversially, the new plans also include reducing the amount of social housing on the site as well as the cash contributions for community benefits such as education and transport.
The old cattle market site next to the railway station in Alcester Road has been a source of growing concern for a number of years.
Yesterday (Wednesday) it was described by Cllr Mike Gittus (Cons, Kinwarton), Stratford District Council’s portfolio holder for environment and planning, as “a carbuncle” on one of the main gateways to the town.
In a statement to the Herald yesterday Matthew Pratt, managing director of Redrow Homes (Midlands), was quite blunt about the situation. He said: “We are keen to resolve the issues surrounding the old cattle market site and get work under way.
“However, in its current format the scheme is not viable. Put simply it would generate significantly less income than it would cost to develop.”
The original planning permission, granted on appeal, was for 197 residential properties—140 private sale homes and 57 social housing units. There was also consent for a large office building and retail space below the flats. In addition to the 57 social homes, the site was scheduled to contribute over £700,000, including substantial sums to education and transport, in what are known as Section 106 agreements.
Redrow said yesterday that part of the scheme would also provide a new bus and taxi transport interchange with the railway station, together with a new, high quality public square to welcome visitors to Stratford. Along with these
improvements Redrow was also providing additional car parking to the station.
Said Mr Pratt: “We’ve established that the cost of building the office block will outweigh any receipt and, because of this, we will be looking to replace it with additional residential units. We are also looking to reduce the amount of social housing and some of the other contributions.
“If we can agree these changes, which will need to be approved by councillors, we will look to start the scheme as soon as is practically possible.”
Mr Pratt added: “The original planning application was conceived in very different market conditions. Since then the housing market has undergone one of the worst down-turns in living memory, with flatted schemes outside London probably the hardest hit.
“We have been in discussions with planning officers to make modifications both to the approved scheme and the off-site contributions, which would make it viable to proceed.
“The council has been understanding of our predicament and, like us, is keen to see this site transformed. We have agreed with the council to undertake an independent valuation of our proposed changes, which will form the basis of a recommendation to councillors.”
Commenting on the need for councillors themselves to make the ultimate judgement on the re-negotiated proposals, Cllr Gittus told the Herald: “At the end of the day the decision on this—because of the nature, scale and considerable public interest in what can only be described as a carbuncle on this site in Stratford—will have to be made by elected members. It will have to go back to the planning committee.”
Redrow finally got permission to develop the site in 2007 and it was planning to start work shortly afterwards. It even closed down its makeshift car park on the site—where motorists were charged only £3 a day—to prepare the ground for development. But then the recession intervened and work was put on hold.
The company re-opened its parking facility but after a while—in what turned out to be a false start—closed it again because work was due to go ahead again. It never happened, and the site has remained as a serious blot on Stratford’s landscape with a lot of people wondering whether the development would ever get under way.
Cllr Gittus said: “The top and bottom of this is that we are very, very conscious of this special area and its location and the district council is as keen as the residents of Stratford—and indeed the developers—to get this site tidied up and developed as soon as possible. But we can’t do this until we can be satisfied that any revision of the funding arrangements are in the public interest.”
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