Local News

Viability review delays Bircherley Green

Sunday 13 September 2020

A review in to the future viability of Bircherley Green is preventing work from starting on the town centre development.

Planning permission for 98 new homes, 3400sqm of commercial space and an 86 bed hotel was granted by the council's Development Control Committee at the end of June.

Chase New Homes were hoping to start work in August but East Herts District Council have not yet issued a Final Decision Notice.  Work cannot start until this notice is issued.

The proposed development is unusual in that it doesn't feature any affordable housing and no 'Section 106' funds have been offered to support local infrastructure or community projects. However, a GP surgery does feature in the proposals.

As part of the application process Chase New Homes submitted a viability study showing that the project would be unviable if they had to provide affordable housing and S106 contributions.  The Council’s viability consultant also undertook viability ‘sensitivity’ testing, which came to a similar conclusion.

However, the council and developer have to agree a viability review mechanism before all the necessary legal agreements can be signed off and a Final Decision Notice issued. The review will enable further viability testing to take place as building work progresses. This will then determine if the projections in the original viability studies were correct.

Commenting on the delay, the developers' planning and design director, Alan Ward said: "While we were incredibly pleased with the resolution to grant permission in June we have still not received formal planning permission from the Council,".

"Without planning permission we cannot start on site.

"We have, however, been progressing positive discussions to secure a GP surgery on the site, but obviously this is still dependent upon us receiving a valid planning permission.

"Everyone worked very hard to get to the earliest possible committee and we had always been clear that we needed permission in good time to allow a meaningful start this year.

"We appreciate this must be a big disappointment to the town and we are equally frustrated, having been so eager to commence on site," he added.

"As a local developer we are acutely aware of the town’s desire to see this site regenerated.

"We have now informed the council that we can no longer expend any significant resource on this site given the circumstances nor can we schedule it into our construction programme.

"There is a legal agreement which must be completed prior to the council issuing the permission and we have failed to reach consensus on its drafting.

"It is our firm view that we are being reasonable and consistent with the council’s own policies, the existing permission/legal agreement already in place on the site and the Government’s clear drive to get Britain building in these uncertain times."

A spokesperesion for the District Council said: "We all want the transformation of Bircherley Green to take place as soon as possible as it will bring much needed social and economic benefits to Hertford.

"We are supportive of Chase New Homes’ plans but they have only recently provided us with some information that needs to be reviewed by our external solicitors before we are in a position to finalise planning permission and issue a decision notice."

No estimates have been provided by either the developer or council on when work will start.

For more background read our article about the history of the redevelopment of Bircherley Green.

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