Lincs Gateway Business Park scheme suffers a blow after planning permission for new housing is refused
A multi-million pound business park on the edge of Spalding could be delayed indefinitely after plans for a housing development were turned down.
Spalding-based developers Ashwood Homes has indicated that it is likely to appeal against a decision to refuse planning permission for up to 43 two, three and four-bedroom homes on land off the A16 and B1173 Cowbit Road, part of the proposed Lincs Gateway Business Park.
Consultants acting for Ashwood Homes warned South Holland District Council, whose planning committee voted against the housing development on Wednesday, that the business park would not be built "in the foreseeable future" without the new homes as part of the site.
The plans also include an office building and eight small business units, with the homes to serve as so-called "enabling development" , building projects thought to be harmful to an area which are instead treated as acceptable because of the resulting benefits.
Ashwood Homes chairman Ashley King said: "We have considerable expense in opening up the early phases of the business park and, because of this, we have been trying to find a way of delivering the first phase of industrial buildings and offices.
"One way of kick-starting the project is to deliver a small amount of housing as an enabler for the business park to commence.
"We are content to deliver the industrial buildings first and then build the homes afterwards, but some help is needed in the early years to make it viable."
Mr King revealed that a total of five potential occupants have contacted Ashwood Homes with an interest in renting the office building and some of the small business units.
"However, we have informed them that we are unable to deliver the project in the short term and are now considering our position as we need a little help in getting the project off the ground," Mr King said.
"Once we have the infrastructure in place, we are confident that the project will be viable and become a good location to work from, creating lots of jobs for the area."
But despite the full business park's potential to create up to an estimated 2,500 jobs, according to planning consultant Tim Waller, the housing development was rejected by district councillors as unacceptable due to its rural location.
During the planning committee meeting on Wednesday, Mr Waller said: "Lincs Gateway Business Park is expected to deliver a substantial number of jobs, estimated at up to 2,500 in the original planning application (approved by the district council in October 2014).
"Without the proposed housing as enabling development, it is not realistic to expect the delivery of the business park in the foreseeable future, possible not within the South East Lincolnshire Local Plan (SELLP) period of 2011-2036.
"There is also a great need for housing and I believe it could be shown, at appeal, that there is a shortfall in the supply of housing land which adds further weight
The planning committee's decision was welcomed by people living near the proposed site in Burr Lane and Fen End Lane because of concerns over the loss of open countryside their homes.
Graham Brown, who spoke at the planning meeting, said: "I've lived in Fen End Lane for 24 years and both myself, along with the majority of the 80 or more residents who live here, came up with a whole host of reasons to object to the housing element of the planning application.
"Firstly, the proposed style of housing is not in keeping with Fen End Lane and would place the homes next to a commercial site.
"Secondly, the SELLP adopted by South Holland District Council in March 2019 did not allocate this site as housing land.
"Therefore, the planning committee did not want to open the flood gates to other developers who may want to come forward with applications for housing."
Planning committee members were skeptical about Ashwood Homes' offer to repair a closed footpath running alongside Cowbit Road, in place of an allocation of affordable homes on the development, as well as potential primary education and NHS contributions totalling just over £96,000.
The contributions were outlined in a report to district councillors which said: "The applicant (Ashwood Homes) sets out a case that the residential development proposed would enable, or cross-subsidise, the commercial elements of the scheme and provide the funding required for the construction of the commercial buildings.
"It is the purpose of the SELLP to deliver residential development in the right locations, and with appropriate contributions, but this application would result in unacceptable residential development which would be of greater disbenefit than the benefit to be gained by the commercial development at this time."
Coun Roger Gambba-Jones, planning committee chairman, told fellow members on Wednesday: "If you permit somebody to use the term 'enabling development' in this respect, then logic suggests that they have to deliver the housing in order to create the cashflow to deliver the rest of the site.
"How you force that issue, once they have delivered the housing, by prising the money out of their hands and making the build the rest of it is anybody's guess."
More by this authorWinston Brown