Published: 10:30, 12 November 2021
| Updated: 14:39, 12 November 2021
A development near a landmark leisure site has been given the go-ahead despite bosses cutting the number of promised affordable homes.
It was initially approved in May last year but the matter returned to the planning committee following changes to the plans.
Some 50 of the 88 (56%) apartments next to the St Andrews Park development were supposed to be offered at "affordable" rates.
This made the scheme – which is for over 55s with support needs and includes a communal space, restaurant, offices and retail unit, – attractive to the committee.
Intended occupiers, Rapport Housing Ltd, thought a government grant would allow it to reach the high affordability level.
However, it later pulled out of the project and site owners St Andrews Commercial Land Ltd battled to find a replacement.
The scheme was re-marketed but a buyer was not found until the proposal of lowering the affordability rate form 56% to 25% was put on the table.
Gravitas Investments Ltd Partnership came on board on the condition this would be lowered subject to the council's approval.
Under the new plans, the affordable homes would be split into half-affordable rent and half-shared equity.
Last month, when the proposal was put in front of councillors, five declared interests on the item because of their association with St Andrews Commercial Land shareholder and former councillor Andrew Mackness.
This was because they'd been in the same Conservative association as him.
It was agreed the application would be deferred so the planning department could ask why the applicant wanted to reduce the number of affordable units.
On Wednesday it returned to the committee when two councillors, including chairman Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), declared interests due to their past work with Mr Mackness.
Others were comfortable remaining for the debate as Mr Mackness is no longer a Tory party member.
Some councillors said they felt let down and misled by the applicant and were disappointed at having to consider the plans again.
However, others pointed out how 25% of affordable homes would meet the authority's standards on affordability quotas.
Cllr Gary Etheridge (Con) said: "The original application was based on the premise a government grant would be forthcoming but the developers were unable to get that grant.
"This obviously was a very poor decision made by the developer by making such an offer prior to understanding if there was actually a business case or a financial case for doing so."
Cllr Simon Curry (Lab) said: "The business situation for the developer may have changed but that's not our problem.
"I suspect that we would not have given approval if we hadn't had such a generous – and I accept it was generous – affordable housing element.
"That's been removed and I can't see why we should be concerned about how they deliver that. That's not our problem."
The vote to defer the decision again was split six votes to six. Another vote to approve the variation of conditions was also split the same way.
The deciding vote of the vice-chairman of the committee was in favour.