In an unprecedented move the leader of the Council Caroline Kerr announced her role in an amended Eden ‘Campus’ application proposing the height of the residential tower at 16 storeys:
“We listened to feedback from residents and key stakeholders and asked for revised, more acceptable plans to be submitted for consultation. In terms of height and impact these changes are welcomed. However, we remain concerned that this means that affordable housing has now been removed from the plans.”
The cynical among us might wonder if there was perhaps an undisclosed agenda? Given the flawed pre-application advice is the council seduced by the dangling carrot of new jobs rather than good placemaking?
The site landowner NFU Mutual has chosen an aggressive stance, cynically dangling the prospect of largely illusory new jobs against a flagrant disregard for the planning failures of their proposals. Their previous application was overwhelmingly rejected by the planning inspectorate and yet those same non-compliances reappear in the current application brazenly green-lighted by our planning officers as if they were unaware of the previous scheme.
In particular we are extremely concerned that rather than alerting the promoter to the policy tests within the development plan and to national guidance, which would have encouraged them to think again, the pre-application advice ignored the statutory plan, ignored the guidance of the statutory heritage authority and did precisely the opposite of what it should have done, offering support and encouragement to the promoter for a scheme that runs counter to adopted policy. It is hardly a surprise that the consultation ignored all the feedback it received and that the architectural renders for the first and second consultations look the same. This application highlights one the many problems of the planning process where pre-app approval results in mere ‘tick-boxing’ consultation where the developer has no intention of responding to comments that do not align with their plans.
The NFU proposals which, had they engaged with key stakeholders, could have resulted in the full provision of affordable housing had they adopted something like the detailed suggestions we made. Using local architects and planning experts we proposed a scheme that put the carpark underground, where it should be and delivered the requirements of the landowners but without excessively high buildings that damage historic and protected assets: (https://edencampusviews-preapplication.carrd.co/#alternative-ways-forward) Affordable housing is calculated as a percentage so we see no reason why a reduced number of affordable homes is not viable. We were expecting a much better revision than this 16 storey residential tower which simply reconfirms NFU Mutual’s aggressive strategy which is very disappointing.
We will continue to work for the best overall result which should involve scrapping this poorly conceived application in favour of scheme that better meets the town’s needs and aspirations. See our presentation to the Neighbour Meeting Committee 21st January below: