More time for Strode Farm plans

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Developers behind a proposed 800 home scheme at Strode Farm in Herne have been given six weeks to resolve a variety of issues or face having their planning application refused.

Hollamby Estates had applied to the city council for planning permission, but while the council was attempting to negotiate with them on matters including affordable housing and road improvements, the developer decided to appeal to the independent Planning Inspectorate on the grounds the application had not been decided in time.

A planning inspector considered the application and recommended to the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government it be refused.

But last Thursday (22 March), the Secretary of State announced he was giving Hollamby Estates until Tuesday 8 May to address exactly the concerns the council was previously trying to resolve.

In particular, the developer must agree to complete a new spine road by the time the 410th home has been built and ensure the development meets the council’s requirement to provide 30 per cent affordable housing.

If Hollamby Estates addresses these issues to the satisfaction of the council and Secretary of State, he says he will proceed to a final decision as soon as possible, although there is no indication what that decision might be. If agreement is not reached, he will continue to consider the appeal and make a decision in due course.

The council’s Head of Planning, Simon Thomas, said: “We are really encouraged that the government inspector has supported our stance on this case. This sends out a very strong message that when communities agree to development in their area, they expect developers to hold to their side of the bargain, and that local affordable housing and investment in roads, schools and other infrastructure is delivered.

“That’s why we go through the whole process of producing a Local Plan and take the difficult decisions we do. The wider national debate by government is emphasising this, and it’s good that it’s being translated into a local case here in our district.

“Strode Farm has been a frustrating process, but we are pleased the government has now fully backed us by reinforcing our position on the significance of the road improvements and affordable housing.

“We are, however, conscious that we have had to spend an estimated £130,000 of taxpayers’ money dealing with this case, at a time when budgets are very limited, only to end up right back where we were months and months ago. Had Hollamby Estates decided to continue discussions with us rather than going for non-determination, all of this time and cost could have been avoided.

“That said, we are where we are, and we’ll now work with the developer to try and get this project over the line. It is one of the key housing development sites in our Local Plan, providing much-needed homes for local families, and we’re keen to start seeing a few bricks being laid.”

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