Developer talks tough with council over five-year homes wrangle

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Vivid Homes
Vivid Homes’ development in Fawley Road, Hythe

A DEVELOPER whose drainage has been blamed for flooding neighbours is threatening to challenge council planners to force a decision if they do not give it the all-clear soon after nearly five years of wrangling.

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Vivid Homes has rejected New Forest District Council’s bid for more time to make a decision and told them it might pull out of talks and launch an appeal over the 45 affordable homes – which have lain empty for years.

The issue has been rumbling since 2015 when housing association First Wessex was granted approval for the homes in Fawley Road, Hythe.

But it turned out the drainage was at odds with the agreed scheme, which was accused of causing flooding problems to nearby homes.

Vivid, which took on the site in 2017 after a merger, finally put a revised drainage scheme to NFDC last year. A decision was put-off by councillors in October 2019 after they were not convinced that it would solve the water problem.

Now it looks like a government planning inspector may end up making the final decision after Vivid told NFDC last month that it did not want more time and was “actively exploring all options including appeal to get this matter resolved ASAP”.

The reply was in response to by Ian Rayner, principal development management officer at NFDC, who wrote suggesting moving the deadline back to 13th March – two days after the next available planning committee meeting.

“As things stand, this seems to be the likely earliest timescale for taking the application back to committee,” Mr Rayner wrote.

The last agreed time extension was to 18th October 2019. Appeals can be launched against a planning authority for failing to determine an application within the required timescale.

As reported in the A&T, Vivid’s director of new business and development, Mike Shepherd, publicly apologised to councillors last year when the new drainage scheme was debated.

He said it would be a better than the original plan of a swale, or drainage pond. Instead there would be a pair of deeper soakaways – covered holes filled with rubble to help water percolate into the earth.

Vivid Homes
John Penny at his farm with the Vivid Homes development in background

The man claiming to be worst affected by the system that was built at odds with the agreed 2015 application is John Penny of Forest Lodge Farm.

He has reported flooding and damage to his buildings which lie at the bottom of a steep slope on the eastern side of the development.

The Fawley Road houses were taken off the market when NFDC discovered the drainage differed from the original plans.

The estate was later hit by a fire which destroyed a three-storey block of eight flats which had to be demolished.

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