The developer behind a controversial new build in Truro has been slammed by locals after it quietly lowered the number of affordable homes it promised to build. Wain Homes recently put forward its detailed plan to build 275 new properties at Dudman Farm, at Highertown in Truro.
Developers pleading poverty as usual – Owl
Edward Church www.cornwalllive.com
Wain Homes pledged 30% of the homes will be sold as affordable – below market rate prices – in the application submitted in May 2022. Outline planning permission for the project was approved in 2016 on the basis that the affordable housing figure was at 40%.
Truro City Council’s planning committee was sent the reserved matters – the more detailed plans such as layout and design after outline permission is granted – to look over last week. Committee members, several of whom live in the area, strongly objected to the plans, with one, Councillor Karen La Borde, saying it’s unacceptable that the number of affordable houses could be changed at this stage.
Cllr La Borde said: “In 2016, the outline planning permission was agreed by Cornwall Council. The one thing which gets me overall is that the application is so old.
“When they agreed it, it was going to be 40% affordable housing, but now they say the site is unviable and they’ll do 30%, which is 5% less than they need and 10% less than they agreed to before. They say it’s viability, but surely they knew the site before they went there.
“They want their profit, it’s speculative development. They’ll be making profit and the people of Truro are losing out. They should not have been allowed six years to do this. We’re in a different time from 2016, we have different priorities.”
The 2022 planning documents submitted by Wain Homes said the 40% figure was not financially viable. The application reads: “The existing Section 106 agreement requires a 40% provision of affordable housing which would generate 110 affordable units across the scheme. This is above the policy requirement of 35% which would generate 97 affordable units.
“Due to viability considerations the application however proposes a level of 30% affordable housing which would generate 82 affordable units. The tenure split is proposed as 70% affordable rented homes and 30% intermediate housing for sale which accords with the Section 106 agreement.
“As the overall percentage would not be policy compliant, this will be subject to a separate request for a deed of variation to the existing Section 106 supported by the requisite viability assessment as required by Local Plan Policy 10: Managing viability.”
In short, the agreed terms of the Section 106 agreement from 2014-16, when it was submitted and approved, respectively, are being changed. The final decision is with Cornwall Council, which must respond by August 26.
Cllr La Borde, who also sits on Kenwyn Parish Council, which encompasses the area of Highertown including Dudman Farm, also joined many other locals in criticising the development as a whole on ecological grounds. She said: “The reaction to the idea of building 275 houses on that land is quite emotional.
A“Locals have been using the land for up to 20 years since it stopped being used for farmland. It’s become a public resource. We’re all used to it now, even more so after Covid. During lockdown it became a bit like the M1 down there, people going out all the time.
“It’s a very valuable resource. It’s not an easy site to develop because of the valley and the train track. But it’s just valuable land for the wellbeing of the people that live from Malabar to Threemilestone.
There are plans to build 275 homes at Highertown, Truro (Image: Google)
“It’s easily accessible and residents will be losing this great asset. We have a site over there that is sucking up as much carbon as it can as it’s been left for so long. Semi mature oak trees which will all have to go, the meadows of wild flowers are absolutely stunning.
“And, much has changed since the outline plans were approved. We now have 4,000 houses being built at Langarth, another 400 at Pydar Street and the city will have exceeded its national determinants for housing. We’re in a good spot in Truro, we don’t need these 275 houses here with the other developments.”
Martin Webster, who lives in an estate very near to the Dudman Farm site, said the area – which has become a popular walking spot – saved his life during the Covid lockdown. Mr Webster explained that it would be a huge loss for him, personally, should the development go ahead at all.
He said: “I’m a former veteran, served for 12 years and have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). It was a lifesaver to walk in that countryside during lockdown and I know it saved a lot of other people’s lives.
“Having that unspoilt beauty removed, for me, it’s criminal. For someone who fought for it, I despise it and think the developers should be held accountable.”
Mr Webster said on a practical level he thinks the development will be disastrous for the area: “How will people feel here when their kids are in a class of 80 not 40? How much more of the natural area will be gone?
“Surely you need to improve the infrastructure of Truro before you start to okay these houses. There should be affordable housing for people but that’s not the priority for these companies.
“There’s lovely little pictures of the family, but it’s bulls**t. You go to houses on new builds and after two years they’re having to rebuild them. Also, the in road is always blocked with lots of cars. Imagine what it’ll be like when you’ve got 275 more houses being built.”
Cllr Steven Webb, mayor of Truro, told CornwallLive he felt it was wrong for a developer to sit on outline planning for this long and not have to start from scratch – given the changing priorities of local planning boards.
Fifty-two other locals added their criticisms on the council’s planning portal. Colin Andrews said: “It clashes with local policies. It is not needed. The council has met its housing need for Truro. It will have a negative impact on a local amenity.
“Biodiversity net gain cannot be met by the developer and wildlife will be destroyed. Not in the neighbourhood plan. It will increase pressure on a struggling traffic network.”
Sarah Searle added: “I walk with my dog and my young family daily in the area and to see the wildlife decimated and the green space disappear forever would be a travesty. Cornwall Council please do not approve planning. We are losing our green space in Cornwall at a mighty speed but we need it for our mental health and wildlife needs our help.
“We are in a climate emergency, take notice, do something to help and don’t approve nearly 300 houses in a green space where the road infrastructure is already at breaking point. Please listen to local people, the green space is important to us all. It’s was used so much during the pandemic and continues to be a popular place to walk and spend time outdoors. We can’t afford to lose it!”