Homebuyers have been left bitterly disappointed after 98 new properties at Bircherley Green were unexpectedly taken off the market by developer Chase New Homes.
The properties were being marketed by Lanes estate agency and the development featured prominently in their portfolio, with a scale model on display in their Market Street offices.
The construction phase of the project started in Summer last year, with marketing of the Lea Wharf homes following shortly after. However, it is believed Lanes were de-instructed in early April, with clients who had expressed an interest being advised by email over the Easter weekend.
It is unclear what prompted developer Chase New Homes to change their plans, despite the properties having been on the market for some time. The company has recently formed a new division to focus on the rental market, issuing the following statement:
The creation of Chase Living Ltd will provide a portfolio of new homes professionally managed with fully staffed customer care and maintenance teams.
There is a significant shortage of rental accommodation in the private sector and we can help fill this void and deliver a range of new homes.
Future residents will have a positive experience with our interior-designed apartments catering for modern living, an onsite concierge who will assist with day-to-day needs, maintain communal areas such as the residents’ outdoor terrace and be on hand to provide help when needed.
Offers from several institutional and individual landlords have been made for Lea Wharf.
We are immensely proud of the scheme and therefore resolved to continue to invest in Hertford by maintaining control of the project.
As a local company and builders of Lea Wharf we will endeavour to provide the highest level of stewardship for residents.
We look forward to ensuring Lea Wharf is a success and contributes to the vitality of Hertford for many years to come.
:: Chase New Homes
Councillor Jan Goodeve, Executive Member for Planning at East Herts District Council, said: "The council is disappointed in the decision, chiefly in how let down people feel by Chase New Homes.
"Whilst the change is not a breach of planning permission, we wrote to Chase New Homes to express our concern on behalf of residents and to seek assurances of their future plans.
"We are pleased to hear of their intentions to provide residents with the highest standards of accommodation and service, with fully staffed customer care and maintenance teams ensuring Lea Wharf will remain a desirable and pleasant place to live. It is also great to see how well the commercial part of the scheme is progressing and attracting a varied a mix of retail, hospitality and leisure to boost the vitality of Hertford town centre.
"We monitor the mix of housing tenure across the district and will always endeavour to ensure the right types of property are built where they are needed. I sincerely hope those affected will find their perfect new home soon."
Leader of the Labour Party on East Herts District Council has also slammed the decision in a statement released to local media.
Residents who had reserved property for purchase in the development contacted Hertford & Stortford Labour Party, telling them that Chase New Homes had informed them of the decision to pull the flats from the market over the Easter Weekend.
"Chase New Homes has benefited enormously from the goodwill of residents in Hertford who want to see an end to the delay and mismanagement of our town centre," Councillor Redfern said. "Their decision to sneak out this announcement is a huge letdown, and will come as a huge disappointment to those who had reserved property to move into what will hopefully become a vibrant town centre."
Labour has also questioned East Herts District Council’s role in the developer’s decision to remove the flats from the market; Councillor Redfern has pledged to write to the Chief Executive and Leader of East Herts District Council and to raise an urgent question at the next council meeting.
"This decision is another blow in the running saga that the regeneration of our town centre has become - the Tory administration on East Herts District Council must urgently confirm when they first knew about Chase New Homes' decision and whether they were consulted beforehand."
Labour has previously called for the inclusion of genuinely affordable housing in the development, to ensure that residents in the local area are not priced out - there is now a concern that these properties could be leased at an extortionate rate that is unaffordable to many in Hertford.
:: Hertford & Stortford Labour Party
According to the Land Registry, the average house price in East Herts was up 12.9 per cent year-on-year to January.
The rental properties are expected to be ready for occupation from Spring next year (2023).
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