Planning chief ‘optimistic’ for solution to four-year affordable homes wrangle

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Vivid Homes
The Vivid Homes development during construction in Fawley Road, Hythe

A SOLUTION might be in sight for 45 new affordable homes in Hythe which have lain empty amid a four-year wrangle with council planners over drainage blamed for flooding neighbouring properties.

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The development off Fawley Road by housing association Vivid Homes was close to completion when it was suddenly pulled off the market early last year after New Forest District Council threatened legal action, as reported by the A&T.

Consent for the development was granted by NFDC in 2015 but the revised drainage system – which was claimed to have directed water onto a nearby farm – was not approved, and the whole scheme has been frozen while it was sorted out.

In January 2018 the site was also hit by a major fire which destroyed a three-storey block of eight flats which were under construction.

The case was raised anew on Monday night by Liberal Democrat Cllr Mark Clark at a full meeting of NFDC in which he criticised the slow progress as “unacceptable”.

He challenged the Conservative administration on whether it was still engaging with Vivid and how much time and money had been spent.

Hopes were raised by Cllr Edward Heron, cabinet member for planning and infrastructure, who replied he was “optimistic” there would be a solution put to next month’s planning committee.

Cllr Edward Heron

He said: “I do share some of the frustrations at the time it’s taken to get where we are. I am sure local people who want them built and are ready for occupation share that as well.”

He defended the council’s handling of the situation without using full enforcement action by saying: “Officers always look to get the development back on track as quickly as possible. It’s something we have available to consider but they think about what’s most likely to get it up and occupied.”

John Penny, of neighbouring Forest Lodge Farm, says that cracks have appeared in buildings on his land as a result of the drainage system.

In a letter to NFDC, he wrote: “I have occupied this land for over 40 years and at no time have I ever witnessed surface water flows from the land of the development site above my property coming overland onto mine.”

The delay to the affordable homes comes against a backdrop of more than 3,000 people on NFDC’s housing list.

Mike Shepherd, director of new business and development at Vivid Homes, told the A&T: “We have been working with the planning department at NFDC to resolve the issues that are preventing these homes being let.

“Our technical advisors have now prepared a new solution for consideration by the planning department which we believe addresses the issues.

“Details are due to be submitted to the local authority by the end of this week for their review.”

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