Developers planning to build on Sheffield's greenbelt withdraw £1.8m affordable homes pledge

The former Dyson factory site, Stopes Road, Stannington, Sheffield
The former Dyson factory site, Stopes Road, Stannington, Sheffield

Housing developers hoping to build on Sheffield's greenbelt have withdrawn their pledge to spend £1.8m on affordable housing, prompting claims they 'misled' the council's planning committee.

Sheffield City Council granted permission for housing developer Avant Homes to erect a total of 88 homes on the former Dyson factory site in Stopes Road, Stannington in October.

Avant signed a legal agreement last month, committing to spend £1,856,641.35 on the provision of affordable housing - but withdrew their pledge just 10 days later saying they believed it to be 'unviable'.

At a meeting yesterday, several members of Sheffield City Council's planning committee criticised Avant Homes' decision to backtrack on their affordable homes agreement, claiming they had been 'misled' by the company.

Councillor Peter Rippon said that if it had not been for the company's commitment to spending £1.8million on affordable housing 'permission would almost certainly have been refused'.

He continued: "We are upset for the lack of respect they have shown us, the community and the people of Sheffield.

"It isn't good enough to state that they always said affordable housing wasn't viable.

"Their commitment weighed significantly in our decision to approve planning permission.

"We feel we have been misled."

He continued by saying he believed Avant Homes were deliberately 'misusing regulations' and called on them to reconsider.

A spokesperson from Avant Homes said: “Avant Homes has been working closely with planning officers at Sheffield City Council to ensure the Griffs Works development is of the highest order in both design and sustainability features.

“With regards to affordable housing, we have been totally transparent and open with council officers at expressing our view that the scheme cannot viably support an affordable housing contribution. This is not a situation where we have sought to present one position prior to determination and a different one following the grant of planning permission.

“In these circumstances the current Section 106 BA application should not be seen as “playing the system” but rather as a house builder respectfully asking for a fresh set of eyes at the District Valuer’s office to “take a second look” and advise the Council accordingly.

“Avant Homes remains committed to the Griffs Works site, securing its regeneration and we very much hope that we can continue to work with the Council in achieving that.”

Councillor David Baker also spoke on the subject.

He told the meeting: "We have been bamboozled.

"At the time they said they thought it was viable, but now they're saying they never suggested that."

The report that went before the council stated: "Despite the legal agreement only being agreed as recently at the 11th of January 2016, and the decision being issued immediately after this, members are advised that on the 21st January the applicant submitted an application under section 106BA of the Town and Country Planning Act to review the planning obligation for affordable housing, on the grounds that the provision of this contribution would make the scheme unviable."

Prior to last October's planning decision, the application was fiercely opposed by residents, countryside campaigners and the parish council.