Report finds Matlock housing plan is financially unviable as developer seeks way around council policy

The battle over plans to build 423 homes on fields north of Matlock has taken a new twist, as a report revealed that the developer cannot make the project financially viable if it is forced to comply with current council policy.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 4:50 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 4:55 pm

An assessment prepared for William Davis Homes found that additional costs associated with the site off Gritstone Road mean the company could not deliver a minimum 30 per cent ‘affordable’ housing and will also seek to reduce Section 106 financial obligations for public services and infrastructure.

A spokesman for the company said: “A number of unanticipated additional costs have become apparent: abnormal ground conditions, a drainage strategy to address concerns about flooding, and archaeological interests requiring evaluation.

“The full cost and wider commercial implications were unknown when the land was allocated in the Local Plan. Government guidance accepts that in these circumstances, project viability can be legitimately reassessed.”

The 30 per cent affordable target is set out in the Derbyshire Dales Local Plan, which provisionally allocates land for housing development.

However, the report concludes that even with zero affordable housing in phase one and ten per cent in phase two, the developer would not achieve its targeted returns.

While the developer cites a “high proportion of smaller, lower-value houses” as another cost barrier, it actually increased the number of two-bed homes in its latest revision to the plans, claiming it would help young families stay in the area.

Just last week, it was also boasting of its Section 106 contributions to health services and schools as one of the scheme’s many benefits for the town.

The land behind Gritstone Road.

Longstanding opponents of the project have been quick to seize on the report as yet another reason it should not get the go-ahead.

Julie Atkin, who lives next to the site, says: “We raised all these issues from day one and they have still pushed it forward. They are now holding the council to ransom. They’re also talking about 50-90 lorries a day near a school being a nod to local quarrying history. It’s just insulting.”

Neighbour Jenni Fellows said: “They have not submitted any new credible evidence that gives clear assurance of how the development will prevent the flood risk of concreting over these fields, which is a huge concern to residents and businesses.

“The development will have a hugely negative impact against the proposed carbon targets the council is aiming for, and the builders are now questioning the viability in terms of affordable housing, which is one of the only valid reasons for even considering building on greenfield land.”

A district council spokesman for said: “The council has appointed an independent viability expert to analyse this submission, which will be published in due course and included in the committee report when it is written.”

Residents have until Wednesday, June 23, to comment on the planning application. Write to [email protected] or the regulatory services department at town hall, citing reference 18/01242/EIA.

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