Is York's apartment-building boom coming to an end as developers seek switch to more family houses? (From York Press)
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Is York's apartment-building boom coming to an end as developers seek switch to more family houses?
A DEVELOPER has abandoned controversial plans for flats on the site of an old York primary school.
Daniel Gath Homes Ltd still wants to demolish the former St Barnabas Primary School in Bright Street, off Leeman Road, but now plans to replace it with eight family homes instead of 14 apartments.
The firm had its earlier plans rejected by City of York Council and also lost a subsequent appeal last summer.
Both the council and the appeal inspector ruled that flats would not meet York’s housing needs. They claimed houses were needed more than flats.
Daniel Gath has now submitted a fresh planning application to the council.
The demolition of the school was opposed by local residents when it was first mooted in 2006.
The council initially ruled the building, which dates back to 1884, should be kept, saying it was a “landmark building of townscape, historical and cultural importance”.
The inspector at a separate appeal disagreed though, saying it was “bleak and forbidding”.
Big question mark over site’s future
THE developer of one of York’s biggest housing schemes has gone into administration, leaving a giant question mark over the future of the site.
Urban-i had been working on a development of 182 flats and 11 houses at Birch Park, Huntington, when it fell victim to the recession.
Work has now stalled on the site, behind the Royal Mail sorting office, with many homes on the brink of completion.
Vicky Banham, spokesman for the site’s builders, ROK, said: “I can confirm we have suspended work there, and the reason for that is that the project is in the hands of the administrators.
“We are working closely with the administrators to ensure the site remains safe, secure and ready for building work to recommence once a solution is found.”
Ms Banham said ROK was “not many weeks off completion” of the first phase, when Urban-i entered administration. She added: “Nothing has been completed or handed over.”
Huntington and New Earswick councillor Keith Orrell said: “As there is a shortage in this city of affordable homes, this is very disappointing for people looking for housing.
“It is to be hoped that this is temporary and the development will be brought on as soon as possible.”
The development website, www.birchpark.co.uk, is no longer accessible, with visitors being told it is “temporarily offline”.
KPMG spokeswoman Alison Anderson, said: “We are continuing to liaise with interested parties looking for a sale of the York site.
“Early on in the administration we took steps to secure the site and a security presence is in place.”
Gas depot flats plan abandoned
DEVELOPERS have abandoned plans to build nearly 300 apartments near the centre of York, following the collapse of the city’s flats market.
National Grid, which owns the former gas depot at Heworth Green, wants to ditch its original plan for 282 flats and 24 three or four-bedroomed houses.
Instead, it wants to build only 12 apartments, but 107 family homes, each with two, three or four bedrooms.
City of York Council approved the original plans for the 8.6-acre site in 2006, but National Grid has now applied to make major changes.
The total number of homes created will reduce from 306 to 119, but Michele Steel, speaking on behalf of National Grid, said the plans had to change to reflect the housing climate.
In a letter supporting a planning application by the organisation, Ms Steel, of consultants Drivers Jonas, said: “The current permission comprises a high proportion of apartments, a mix that no longer meets the needs of the housing market within York.”
Local councillor Ruth Potter could not comment on the specific proposal, as she sits on the planning committee which will consider the case.
But she said: “I would say generally that the city needs larger family homes rather than flats. This is borne out in the recent housing needs survey.
“We predicted last year that the large number of flats being built would flood the market and soon become unsellable, as the demand is just not there for them in York.”
Ms Steel said National Grid’s rethink was prompted in part by the York Strategic Housing Market Assessment in 2007, which found that 4,285 households in the city were in “unsuitable accommodation”.
The assessment said 64 per cent of homes needed in York were houses, but 66 per cent of those built from 2003 to 2006 were flats.
A separate statement by planning experts Nicol Thomas said National Grid remained committed to the non-residential parts of the development, including a five-a-side football pitch and a play area for children.
Homes scale ‘goes too far’
BUILDERS have won top-level backing in their fight against controversial housing proposals, which they said would “kill development” in York.
City of York Council’s former leader Steve Galloway said a proposed “sliding scale” approach to social housing went too far.
Conservative councillor Joe Watt also slated the plans, drawn up by housing officials ahead of a city-wide consultation later this year.
“I am just staggered that you want to consult people on something that would make things much worse,” said Coun Watt.
Housing officials had called for a change to the rules on social housing, which state half of any development with more than 15 homes must be earmarked for “affordable housing”.
Local builders have long opposed the 50 per cent rule, but also condemned the officials’ counter-proposal, which said they must provide some social housing in smaller projects.
At a meeting of the Local Development Framework working group, Coun Galloway proposed an alternative proposal, accepting the idea of a sliding scale but reducing the maximum from 50 per cent, to 40 per cent. He said: “I do not believe the formula the officers came up with is the right one.”
Architect Matthew Laverack, who also spoke at the meeting, said Coun Galloway’s intervention was “a breath of fresh air”.
He said: “In recent years the house-building industry has been strangled to death with ever increasing burdens and obligations.”
Labour councillor Tracey Simpson-Laing said letting builders put social housing in different places from their main developments was “nimbyism” and would allow for “social engineering”.