Councillors condemn waiving of Granham Hill development fee

Written by Peter Davison on .

Marlborough town councillors have reacted with anger to news that an affordable housing levy expected from developers has been waived.

Condemnation came at the council’s planning meeting on Monday night. Members were told that McCarthy & Stone, who are building retirement flats for the over 55s at the former Clarke and Rodway garage site at the bottom of Granham Hill, had been excused from paying a £335,000 levy.

Approval for the development was granted by Wiltshire Council’s Eastern Area Planning Committee in February 2015, despite the objection of Marlborough’s two representatives on the body: councillors Nick Fogg and Stewart Dobson.

Marlborough Town Council had also objected to the application. (see  Granham Hill garage site: development to go ahead after Wiltshire Council agrees to drop affordable housing contribution)

The silver lining came in the form of a ‘Section 106’ levy of £334,625.51, which would be used to build affordable housing “in Marlborough”.

Marlborough.News warned at the time: “That is something for the objectors to monitor closely.”

And on Monday, Marlborough.News revealed that the levy had been waived. Work had ground to a halt at the site, and McCarthy and Stone had claimed the site was more contaminated than was at first thought.

Wiltshire Council officers agreed with the developers that "...the development is economically unviable with any off-site affordable housing contribution."

At the planning committee on Monday night, town mayor Noel Barrett-Morton said the move set “a poor precedent” while deputy mayor Mervyn Hall said: “It’s the government’s fault. They passed legislation to speed up developments.”

In Spring 2016 the government suggested that Section 106 agreements were “acting as a barrier to development”.

Following the shake-up of the planning law, if the profit margin for a development scheme is pushed to below 17.5 percent by affordable housing or other Section 106 payments, the developer can appeal against making the contribution.

The McCarthy & Stone case is now being mirrored across the UK, causing anger in communities desperate for affordable accommodation.

A Stone Curlew by Andrew Mercer reproduced under Creative Commons licenceA Stone Curlew by Andrew Mercer reproduced under Creative Commons licenceMeanwhile, it seems that McCarthy & Stone will have to make some contribution to the community – of £374.49 towards the protection of stone curlews, a bird the RSPB describes as a “rare summer visitor to southern England.”

About as rare as a local young person who can afford to continue living in Marlborough, many will argue (and have done, over on our Facebook page). Here are some of the comments:

What chance have people like me a Marlborough Man from a family that's been in Marlborough for generations got of ever living in MY home town! Chris Purton

There are too many flipping retirement apartments going up. Get a balance of normal housing for younger folk and growing families built! Stuart Bailey

Just what the town needs, more oap the hell were the developers allowed to riggle out of their affordable housing contributions. An absolute disgrace. Ross Smith

This is disgusting! What on earth are Wiltshire Council playing at? The big corporations get a helping hand but the little guys that live in this town don't get a look in. Becky Deane