Councillors in Tenby have once again raised concerns over a lack of on-site ‘affordable housing’ provision attached to the redevelopment plans for the site of the town’s former Royal Mail Delivery Office building.
Members of the town council recently responded to the public consultation exercise on the pre-planning application submitted for the demolition of the existing building at 1 Warren Street and construction of 34 residential apartments, along with ground floor retail units.
The application to be submitted to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority sees the scheme incorporate a four storey residential apartment building and a two storey rear mews building which will deliver apartments - comprising 23 one-bed units, 11 two-bed units - alongside 116 sqm of commercial space at ground floor level.
In correspondence recently sent to engineering and planning consultancy firm Tetra Tech, town councillors stated that they were broadly in favour of the design proposals, but they did flag up a number of concerns over the plans, in particular disappointment that there appeared to be no affordable housing provision among the 34 proposed units on site, along with the fact that there is no indication of any financial contribution or 106 agreement to fund affordable housing provision within the town at an offsite location.
Councillors also felt that the 10 parking spaces proposed, were insufficient for provision of 34 one and two bedroom units.
Despite making a second request for a meeting with the planning consultants, it seemed apparent that Tetra Tech had declined the request and chosen to answer the town council’s queries via a letter letter, with correspondence from the planning firm’s associate director Rob Mitchell responding to councillors’ concerns.
“Over the plan period 2016 to 2031 the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Local Development Plan will seek to provide 361 affordable dwellings in the National Park. Tenby is a primary settlement and a focus for accommodating growth. We note the delivery of much needed housing, including affordable provision, is a clear local planning policy priority,” wrote Mr. Mitchell.
“Reuse of the site for housing will deliver an important contribution to PCNPA’s housing delivery targets across the plan period, on a windfall brownfield site.
“The LPA’s Affordable Housing SPG, at paragraph 4.4, recognises economic viability is of utmost importance in the delivery of housing and affordable housing in the National Park.
“If a scheme is not financially viable, development will not be realised, and there is no planning gain either in the delivery of the development itself or in the form of affordable housing contribution or any other planning contributions.
“PCNPA recognises that economic viability is a key factor in delivering affordable housing. The applicant is agreeable to a financial payment in lieu of on-site affordable housing provision subject to viability, in accordance with LDP Strategy 48,” he added.
In responding to the correspondence at the town council’s most recent meeting, the Mayor, Clr. Mrs. Sam Skyrme-Blackhall felt that the response was ‘inadequate’ and suggested that the town council ask once again for a meeting.
Clr. Laurence Blackhall agreed, stating that he felt that the whole point of the pre-application process was to ‘engage in consultation’ to find mutually agreed ways forward.
“To engage means more than simply repeating aspects of planning policy members already know. It is sad that it appears they do not wish to engage. Tetra Tech need to reconsider!” he told his fellow councillors.
“We have specific concerns over affordable housing provision. We know what the guidance is so question one is - why not have affordable housing on site, why should affordable housing be purchased somewhere out of the way?
“The second point is that they say the provision of any affordable housing at all is dependent on the viability of the scheme. If this scheme was not viable, the proposals wouldn’t have got this far.
“We need to make it clear to them that our preference is for affordable housing to be offered within the site and not tucked away somewhere else, if ‘viable’.
“I would add that our support for the scheme going forward to planning stage is dependent on that and we need to get around the table with them to talk about it,” stressed Clr. Blackhall.
“Regarding the reduced parking provision, with 10 spaces for 34 units, the LDP gives them a get out which is unfortunate. Again, we were well aware of this policy but we need to talk to them about it as we’re interested to know if these units will be specifically marketed as having no parking or will they come up with another way to address additional parking needs.
“There is no doubt that potential purchasers will have vehicles, and this will be placing additional pressures on the town’s parking.
We know that we can make comments at planning stage, they did not need to tell us this. Pre-application consultation is about looking at potential problems and resolving them before the application is submitted so the process is smoother,” added Clr. Blackhall.
Clr. Jim Cornwell said he found it ‘extraordinary’ that the building was to have retail on the ground floor. He said that he was in no doubt that the whole area needs development and he was not against the accommodation aspect, but he did question who would rent the ground floor retail units.
Addressing the parking provision, Clr. Conwell said that as there was a lack of parking in Tenby town already, with only 10 spaces proposed for this development, where were all these vehicles going to go?
Clr. Mike Evans said that Warren Street had always been historically a commercial street full of shops, pointing to the recent Delphi development along the South Parade which had shown the value of ground floor retail units with accommodation above, as retail rental helped allow for more affordable housing provision on site.
He would not comment on whether 34 units was the ‘right number’ but did express concern about the ‘massing’ of the site.
However, Clr. Evans continued, that as the scheme was still at the pre-application stage, the consultancy firm were trying to ‘tease out’ from people what would be acceptable.
“If you look at the application,” he continued, “the letter is copied to Annabelle Stannard at Trillium (RMF) Ltd. These are the actual owners of the site and Tetra Tech are planning consultants who have submitted the application on their behalf,” he explained, asking whether the town council had only been corresponding with Tetra Tech or were PNCPA aware of TTC’s position. The Clerk confirmed that TTC’s views had been copied to PCNPA’s Director of Planning and Park Direction, Nicola Gandy.
Clr. Evans believed that it was important that a separate letter be written to PCNPA stressing the town council’s concerns over affordable housing provision.
“Under LDP policy there is a requirement for 50 per cent affordable housing and PCNPA should stress to Trillium that this is the least that the town expects,” he continued.
Clr. Evans went into say that he believed that more could be achieved however, feeling that TTC should call an immediate meeting with Mr. Will Lloyd, the property developer with Ateb, and Gaynor Toft and Clr. Michelle Bateman at Pembrokeshire County Council, as he felt there could be an opportunity here to look at PCC and Ateb entering into a joint venture to look to purchase this site and provide 100 per cent affordable housing.
He commented that the recent Brooks report said that councils should use all tax raising powers in order to tackle affordable housing within their area and PCC were currently undertaking a review into second homes council tax.
Clr. Evans said that he believed there was a potential opportunity here to use tax money raised to purchase this site from Trillium through a joint venture with Ateb and deliver 100 per cent local housing to directly tackle the problems we suffer from in Tenby.
In relation to the retail space on the ground floor level, Clr. Evans stated that recent developments had already transformed the retail experience in this area of Tenby, and that this scheme could be an extension of that, which would also provide more local jobs.
It was resolved that the town clerk write again to Tetra Tech requesting a meeting; and further that he write to PCNPA asking them to remind the site owners that there was a requirement for at least 50 per cent affordable housing provision under LDP policy 48 and it should be marketed as such to any potential developers.
Councillors also agreed that a meeting should be arranged between themselves, PCC and Ateb to discuss the potential of utilising all available funding to acquire the site to maximise affordable housing provision, with Clr. Evans stating that the meeting must emphasise maximising tax raising opportunities to achieve 100 per cent affordable housing on this site.
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