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Plans for 800 homes near Herne Bay approved

Controversial plans to build 800 homes on the outskirts of Herne Bay have finally been given the green light – ending a saga that has lasted four years.

Hollamby Estates first submitted its application for Strode Farm in 2014, but concerns raised by the council about affordable housing and road improvements stalled the project.

After the deadline passed for the authority to put the scheme before its own planning committee, the house builder took the chance to appeal to the independent Planning Inspectorate in December 2016, using the "non-determination" rule.

The Secretary of State's decision has paved the way for 800 homes to be built at Strode Farm
The Secretary of State's decision has paved the way for 800 homes to be built at Strode Farm

But it did not get the result it wanted, with the inspector handing the case to the then-Secretary of State for housing, Sajid Javid, recommending he refuse it.

James Brokenshire, who succeeded Mr Javid in April, approved the plans, believing they had in their favour the fact the site is included in the Local Plan and would therefore "make a significant contribution to the district's housing land supply".

He also gave "significant weight" to the scheme’s accommodation of the Herne relief road and its impact on affordable housing numbers in the area.

Mr Brokenshire approved the plans despite Hollamby's pledge to contribute an amount short of the £4.581 million still outstanding for the bypass.

In addition, he wrote there is "no enforceable mechanism" to ensure Section 106 payments are secured from the developers at Hillborough for it.

City council spokesman Rob Davies hinted the decision had thrown the relief road project into jeopardy.

The plan for 800 homes at Strode Farm
The plan for 800 homes at Strode Farm

“We are very disappointed and surprised at the decision of the Secretary of State to not require the developer of this site to commit to fully funding the bypass for Herne village,” he said.

“The need for the bypass was a clear requirement in our Local Plan, recently signed off by the government’s own inspector and supported by the county council.

“While he has agreed with us on the principle that Bullockstone Road should be upgraded with a safer highway link to serve the development, his decision means the mechanism to deliver the road is yet to be agreed and we will now need to work to ensure that the full funding for the road is put in place as soon as possible.”

A point of contention, which Mr Javid raised towards the end of March, was the stage at which the development’s spine road, linking Bullockstone Road with Canterbury Road, should be built.

Hollamby had proposed to complete it before the 500th home had been built, but Mr Brokenshire’s approved planning conditions stipulate the route shall be built by the time 410 homes are occupied.

Chris Crook from Hollamby Estates
Chris Crook from Hollamby Estates

Of the site’s 800 homes, 30% will be affordable. The Secretary of State outlined 70% of them shall be allocated for renting and the rest made available to buy under shared ownership schemes, despite the developer’s belief it would be more financially viable to reverse that split.

Mr Davies said: “It’s great news the Secretary of State has listened to us and is requiring the developer to provide 30% affordable housing, rather than just the 4% it was trying to get away with.

“This site is allocated in our Local Plan for development, so while the principle of housing here had been established, this planning application dealt with the detail of the development.

“It has been a very long process to get to this point, not helped by the developer deciding to cease negotiating with us and apply to the Planning Inspectorate on the grounds of non-determination.

“The developer’s attempts to provide such little affordable housing and road improvements that were not safe were particularly unhelpful.”

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