A VERDICT on a controversial housing scheme in Sheffield’s green belt was shelved this week amid concerns over a late change to the proposed number of homes.
Councillors decided on Tuesday to defer a decision over the future of the former Loxley College campus to allow more talks between their planning officers and college representatives.
The outline application from the college indicated 71 detached and semi-detached houses on the site off Wood Lane – but when it was presented to councillors, officers suggested the total should be reduced to 67.
The college’s agent, Janet Hodson of JVH Town Planning Ltd, said: “I never seen this condition before and cannot agree to it. It is not based on any rationale that I can see. Those four units could make all the difference to how deliverable the scheme is.”
Planning officer John Williamson admitted that the change had been made ‘at the last minute’, but said: “We feel there are issues with the layout as it stands. We can get a better layout on the site with 67 houses than with 71.”
Councillors asked officers to return to negotiations.
Coun Bob McCann said: “If this is passed it will be something that the applicants have not agreed to, and that they do not want to build. Whoever is developing this site is doing it to make a profit – we would be asking them to knock profit off the site.
“If we approve this, it will not be worth the paper it is printed on.”
The college wants to sell the site for housing after moving to a new campus at Hillsborough but has run into opposition from residents and conservation groups because of the impact on the green belt and surrounding roads, especially at Malin Bridge.
Jan Symington, of the Loxley Valley Protection Society, told councillors: “Most people in the community would like the eyesore that the college site has become to be cleared away but then what happens to the site?”
The community wanted to see a “satisfactory result for a much-loved and well-used green open space” but the current outline application was “nebulous”, lacking details of the proposed design and layout, she said.
In total, there were 110 objections to the latest housing scheme and five letters of support.
Council officers support the idea of homes being built closer to the built-up area of Wood Lane to open up views of the valley, although some critics would prefer any housing to go on the same site as the old college.
If councillors finally grant permission, the final word will rest with the Government’s Communities Secretary because of the implications for the green belt.