Agenda item

Application No.192852 - Sorbus House, Mulberry Business Park, Fishponds Road, Wokingham, RG41 2GY

Recommendation: Conditional approval subject to legal agreement


Proposal: Outline application with for the proposed erection of 38 dwellings to include one and two bedroom dwellings, landscaping, bike store and bin store (access to be considered)


Applicant: Mr P Smith


The Committee received and reviewed a report, set out in agenda pages 43 to 90.


The Committee were advised that the Members’ Update included an amendment to recommendation A to read: A completed legal agreement secured within three months of the date of the Planning Committee to secure the provision of a minimum of nine on site affordable housing units (in shared ownership with two x 1-bed units and seven x 2-bed units) and an Employment Skills Plan.


In line with the given deadlines, two public written submissions were received for this item. These submissions were circulated to Members in advance, and noted on the evening. The submissions as provided can be found below.


Paul Smith provided the following submission in support of the application. “Since the January planning committee meeting which granted outline planning permission for 38 units at Sorbus House subject to the signing of a legal agreement (S106), we have been working hard to fulfil our offer to provide on-site affordable housing. This followed the proactive and collaborative work we did with Simon Taylor before the January meeting to ensure the proposals we submitted were both compliant and acceptable.


We embarked on a series of protracted with Wokingham Council’s Registered Provider (RP) with a view to them taking on the site for Affordable Housing (AH). We also continued to work proactively with the planning case officer to agree the S106 agreement and funded the Council’s viability study to advise those discussions. As you can see from Simon’s report, the final conclusion of that agreement is that the S106 provision of 9 shared ownership dwellings should be approved.


Unfortunately WBC’s AH team couldn’t progress and therefore we looked for an alternative HA to deliver the 38 units as fully affordable dwellings. We have worked hard to find that partner and are close to securing an agreement with another RP. The intention is for them to develop the whole site (38 units) for affordable housing. 38 is considerably more than the number requested under the local policies and, if our agreement is successfully concluded, means that Wokingham Borough Council will benefit from a significant uplift in affordable homes on this site. Better than the 9 units (which we can deliver and still commercially build and sell the remaining 29 units as private housing) or paying the commuted payment for offsite affordable housing provision (£714k) which the Housing team first requested. We have further agreed to a viability review at a stage when 70% of the homes are occupied so the Council can confirm they have best value in AH. Contracts have not yet been exchanged with the RP in question which is why the S106 is in its present form.


So, in summary, we have done what was asked of us at the January Committee meeting. This will result in a minimum of 9 AH dwellings on-site, but more likely 38 new AH units for the Borough. I hope you all agree that this is a fantastic outcome and I look forward to ratification of our outline planning proposal.”


Sarah Kerr, Ward Member, provided the following submission commenting on aspects of the application. “You will remember at the planning committee meeting in January when I spoke against this development and the reasons why.  There were many, not least, that this is a core employment area, and there are a now hundreds of residential conversions taking place through permitted development laws – laws that desperately need revising.  As such, the committee agreed that this development would be allowed as it at least provided CIL money, unlike the other units in the area which I hope will go some way to making this a nicer place to live than an employment area would.  One of the other objections I had was due to the lack of onsite affordable housing (zero).  I thank the committee for insisting that onsite affordable housing was included, but am subsequently disappointed that the applicant is now trying to lessen their commitment, hence the decision before you tonight.  Affordable housing has many meanings, and Wokingham has a distinct lack of truly affordable housing.  Please may I remind the committee that you are here tonight not to help developers increase their profit margins.  Your commitment is to the people of Wokingham Borough, and as a local planning authority, it has been determined what level of affordable housing is required for developments.  Your job tonight is to uphold that requirement.”


Members were asked in turn for any comments or queries on this application. Specific comments or queries are summarised below.


Simon Weeks commented that policy requirements for this application required 11.4 affordable housing units, however the applicant had subsequently agreed 9 on site units which had been independently assessed via a viability assessment. The applicant had been in contact with a housing management company in order to provide all units as affordable housing in future. The provision of all units as affordable housing was outside of the legal agreement.


Chris Bowring commented that the Committee had previously sought to get affordable housing on-site. The reduction from 11.4 units to 9 units was adequate in his opinion.


Gary Cowan commented that it may be appropriate to ask the relevant Executive Member whether these types of development were appropriate within the Thames Valley Heath SPA.


Andrew Mickleburgh asked that the amended recommendation A be agreed in conjunction with the Chairman of the Planning Committee. Justin Turvey, Operational Manager – Development Management, stated that this could be referred to specifically.


All Committee Members present were positive about the prospect of provision of 38 on-site affordable housing units, which would be an asset within the Borough.


RESOLVED That application number 192852 to approved, subject to conditions and informatives as set out in agenda pages 44 to 50, and amended recommendation A as set out in the Members Update which is to be agreed in conjunction with the Chairman of the Planning Committee.

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