Homes plan breakthrough?

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A STICKING point over a long-running scheme for a housing estate on the site of the former Loxley Valley College could be removed next week.

On the table will be a proposed compromise over the level of ‘affordable housing’ that is holding up plans for 69 houses in the green belt off Wood Lane, near Forge Valley Community School.

Councillors will be advised to accept six three-bedroom houses go for rent under the wing of a social landlord, despite community protests that the authority should stick to the terms of the planning agreement, which stipulated 40% of the floor space, about 28 properties.

Ben Bailey Homes maintain that the original condition would make construction unviable. After commissioning BNP Paribas Real Estate to carry out a financial appraisal, they first maintained no affordable housing could be built into the figures, then offered six in an attempt to reach a compromise.

The council consulted the District Valuer’s Office, which concluded it should be 11, taking into account the construction costs and the predicted revenue and profit margins.

“Clearly there us a wide difference of opinion between the DVO and BNP Paribas on the economic viability of the scheme,” says a council report. “However, both are giving a professional opinion and it is difficult to be sure which appraisal will be more accurate in practice.”

Council officers are supporting the suggested compromise, which they will put to councillors on Tuesday.

“Members are advised to bear in mind that the refusal to accept the offer of six affordable homes will at the very least cause further delay in achieving the redevelopment of the derelict college buildings and at worst could result in the applicant walking away from the site.”

Breaking the deadlock will help Sheffield meet the housing targets set by the Government, it is further argued.

The site, overlooking the Loxley Valley, has been derelict since the college was relocated to Hillsborough in 2005.

Objections to the removal of the condition on ‘affordable housing’ have come from Loxley Valley Protection Society, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, Bradfield Parish Council and Stannington Tenants and Residents Association.

Critics say there is a pressing need for homes that first time buyers can afford, especially in the current economic climate, with properties in the area selling for more than £200,000. Stannington TARA says there are already more private properties than are required.