Councillors defer 'amazingly complicated' Shanly Homes flats plan in Maidenhead

MAIDENHEAD 134626-1

Plans to build 49 apartments in place of a former Maidenhead church were deferred at a meeting last week due to concerns over whether affordable housing could be delivered.

Councillors sitting on the Maidenhead development management panel on Wednesday (June 15) were not fully convinced by Shanly Homes' proposals for the old spiritualist church just off York Road.

The developer had submitted outline plans to build the 49 flats following demolition of the vacant building in the town centre, with just the access, appearance, layout and scale considered at the meeting.

Shanly proposed the new building to reach eight storeys and contain 17 one-bedroom and 32 two-bedroom apartments, together with 26 car parking spaces.

But no affordable housing was proposed within the scheme, despite a Royal Borough policy requiring large developments to have at least 30 per cent of this.

Planning officers said in their report that the lack of affordable housing was 'unfortunate' but they would be attaching a condition which requires Shanly to review its finances to see if it can secure affordable housing in the future.

The developer had filled out a viability assessment which claimed that it would not make a large enough profit if it offered affordable homes as part of the scheme.

Planning officers recommended to councillors to defer and delegate the application to the head of planning to approve the scheme subject to a number of conditions, including the aforementioned. 

But councillors on the planning panel were not happy with the proposals in their existing form, with Councillor John Baldwin (Lib Dem, Belmont) accusing the application of being an 'amazingly complicated way of wording things'.

"The application itself still has various issues still to be decided and I am extremely reluctant to allow the recommendation because it will exclude this panel from the process from this point onwards," he told the meeting.

Planning officers countered that they did not see the application as a complex one and that it was 'perfectly routine' for the panel to defer and delegate applications to the head of planning for approval, subject to conditions.

Panel member Cllr Gerry Clark (Con, Bisham and Cookham) told the panel that affordable housing was an 'absolute priority', a point agreed on by Cllr Joshua Reynolds (Lib Dem, Furze Platt), who claimed that too many of these such schemes were coming forward in Maidenhead.

Newly announced chairman of the committee, Cllr Maureen Hunt (Con, Hurley & Walthams), said the Royal Borough is 'concerned' about delivering affordable homes for residents. 

She added at last week's meeting: “We want to help them in any way whatsoever and we’re having lots of flats built and it’s only fair for those people who can’t afford to buy outright to have a step on the ladder."

Cllr Reynolds tabled a motion to defer the application, seconded by Cllr Clark, in order for members to read Shanly's viability assessment in full. 

Planning officers reminded councillors that the developer could lodge an appeal against the council's decision but despite this, eight councillors sided in favour of the motion, with Cllr Leo Walters (Con, Bray) abstaining.

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