A developer has been accused of seeking to bully councillors in a dispute over affordable housing contributions in West Norfolk.
The claim was made as the borough council’s planning committee yesterday rejected calls to review its demand for payment towards affordable housing provisions in relation to permission for development of the old King’s Lynn Silos site on the South Quay.
Instead, members unanimously voted to give the developer, McCarthy and Stone, a month to complete an agreement or have the application turned down.
Committee chairman Vivienne Spikings said: “I feel we’re being bullied into this position. I’m not prepared to accept this.”
Members voted to grant planning permission for 37 retirement flats on the site in July, if legal agreements relating to contributions towards affordable housing and library provisions were agreed with McCarthy and Stone within three months.
But the company is now claiming the project would not be viable if they had to pay for affordable housing.
It is refusing to sign the agreement, following a planning inspector’s ruling on a similar scheme in Hunstanton last month, where its offer of a substantially lower contribution than the council had sought was deemed to be reasonable.
And officials warned the authority could be on “a hiding to nothing” if it now rejected the scheme and triggered another appeal process.
But committee member Paul Foster said he could not understand the company’s concern if their assessment that the site would not be viable proved to be accurate.
The meeting was also told the number of single people and couples aged 60 or over who were on the council’s housing register seeking a bungalow or flat had risen by around 150 per month between April and September.
Ward councillor Lesley Bambridge reminded the committee that she had argued there was a need for social housing for elderly people when the scheme was first examined.
She asked: “How are we ever going to reduce the waiting list, especially for the older generation, if we accept this change?”
Committee member Martin Storey backed her view, telling his colleagues: “If we keep putting off affordable housing schemes, they keep rolling round forever and a day. We’ve had this for the last 15 years and that’s why we’re in the muddle that we are now.
“Enough’s enough. Let’s give these people who deserve a home the opportunity to have one. When you buy something, with the greatest of respect, you leave yourself a little bit of leeway for unforeseen circumstances. I don’t agree with this whatsoever.”
David Collis said the company’s assessment of the viability meant the application was “substantially different” from the one they looked at in July.
And Chris Crofts questioned whether the agreement could be amended to provide a contribution towards health provision.