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Latest news from Houghton Regis North 1

Thursday, 15 August 2019 08:45

Latest news from Houghton Regis North 1

 

Have developers paid the £44m due to the public for the new roads?

Just 10% affordable housing agreed!

Houghton Regis North Site 1 (HRN1) was granted planning permission for 5,150 homes in 2014. This is the biggest site for housing development anywhere in Bedfordshire and one of the largest single sites in the UK.

To facilitate the development, £200m of public money was invested in 2 new roads opened in 2017 – the A5-M1 Link Road and the Woodside Link Road.

To date not a single brick laid – homes for 5,000 families inexcusably delayed.

To help finance the new roads, a deal was signed between the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Consortium behind the HRN1 development.

This S278 Agreement, of which CPRE Bedfordshire has a copy, required the Consortium to pay £44m towards the cost of the new roads (£200m) – payment was due when the roads were completed.

CPRE Bedfordshire has submitted a Freedom of Information request to the DfT asking them to confirm that the £44m has been paid and if not when they expect to receive the payment.

The DfT has refused to answer our FOI request, saying that they have no knowledge of the payment and that it is now in the hands of Highways England.

This is very strange, £44m is a considerable sum of money due to the “public purse”.

The DfT response indicates to us that perhaps all is not as it should be – we question whether the £44m has indeed been paid.

If it has been paid, why would the Consortium delay the construction of new homes?

Financial good practice would normally require a developer to build and sell the new homes as quickly as possible in order to make profits to recover the £44m they had spent on the new roads. The reverse has been the case. The Consortium has done everything it can to delay construction.

Delays to building out HRN1 have meant that 100s of hectares of additional open countryside have had to be allocated to developers for building land by Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) in order to compensate for houses not built at HRN1.

Furthermore, CBC confirmed to the Inspector at their Local Plan Public Examination currently underway, that because the Consortium agreed to pay £44m towards new roads, the number of affordable homes they are obliged to build has been reduced to just 10% compared to the 30% that CBC expects from all other developments.

The deal for just 10% affordable homes is apparently part of a very complicated and unusual Agreement that allows either, that the % of affordable homes is increased depending on the increased value of the land or, that an equivalent sum of money is paid to CBC.

We understand that members of the HRN1 Consortium include AVIVA and the Diocese of St Albans.

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