The beef is over the level of affordable housing to be included – an issue that Inland Homes chief executive Stephen Wicks says is “one of the biggest causes of delays in the delivery of new homes in the UK”.
Wilton Park is a former Ministry of Defence site for the School of Languages set in 37.5-hectares, east of Beaconsfield. Inland Homes acquired the site in 2014 when the School of Languages closed.
It is identified as an ‘opportunity site’ in South Bucks District Council’s (SBDC) core strategy and has been described by estate agent Savills as ‘the best residential development opportunity in Southern England’.
Inland Homes has an allocation for 350 homes and 2,100 sqm of commercial space but viability of the scheme depends on relaxation of the 40% affordable housing quote, to which the council seems reluctant to accede.
“We have now owned the site for over five years, guiding the project through to an adopted planning brief and a subsequent planning application, which has now been submitted for over a year,” Stephen Wicks said. “Developers are required to build affordable housing, as defined by local authority policy – in this case 40% of all homes built – unless it can be demonstrated through a financial viability assessment (FVA) that it would not be viable to do so. While our FVA, which demonstrated that the delivery of the decreed 40% affordable housing at Wilton Park would be unviable due to heavy infrastructure costs, was signed off by a source approved by the council, the council has refused to accept the findings. It subsequently commissioned a further viability assessment which took six months to prepare and came to a similar conclusion, which, frustratingly, the council is again refusing to accept.”
He continued: “Inland Homes is making every effort to engage with the council to resolve this matter to everyone's satisfaction and discussions are continuing. Such delays caused by arguments over the level of affordable housing are one of the biggest causes of delays in the delivery of new homes in the UK; the battle continues!”
Despite frustrations on this development, Inland Homes’ preliminary results for the year to 30th June 2018 show a pre-tax profit of £19.3m).
During the year it sold 837 residential plots (2017: 780) and completed 275 open market homes (2017: 188), generating revenues of £147.4m (2017: £90.7m).
There is greater confidence over plans at Cheshunt Lakeside in Hertfordshire, where Inland Homes has also submitted a planning application for a new community of 1,853 homes and 200,000 sq ft of commercial space on the site of the former Tesco headquarters. “The local authority at Broxbourne are very supportive of our proposals and we are anticipating an early approval,” Stephen Wicks said.