More than 1,000 new homes planned for York – and not a single one affordable

The cover illustration on one of the British Sugar planning documents
24 Oct 2017 @ 7.01 pm
| Environment, News

Developers who plan to build 1,100 new homes in York say not a single one of them should be set aside for affordable housing.

British Sugar closed its factory off Boroughbridge Road in 2006 and now wants to develop the flattened site. But it is on a collision course with City of York Council over their differing visions.

The company says it is aiming for a 20% profit on the development, and says that will be impossible if any of the site is earmarked for affordable housing. The council’s research suggests otherwise.

British Sugar submitted its plans in 2015 but the application has yet to be decided.

The company has appealed against the council for not making a decision, and a planning inquiry is scheduled for January.

Housing plans ‘unacceptable’

This aerial shows the site set to be developed. Photograph: Bing Maps

As part of the process, councillors will be asked on Wednesday (October 25) to say how they would vote, were they to do so now. They are advised to say they would have refused it.

Read the planning committee report in full here

In a written report to the meeting, council planning officer Jonathan Kenyon sets out a range of concerns and areas of disagreements.

Some sticking points have been overcome, but the affordable housing point remains unresolved.

Mr Kenyon says in his report: “The applicant’s position of no affordable housing is unacceptable.

“Officers are not convinced by the viability work undertaken to date that this is a reasonable position and that the scheme would be unviable if there were an affordable housing requirement.”

The council’s current target is for 20% of brownfield housing developments to be affordable housing. That would equate to 220 at the British Sugar site.

Lack of detail

An artist’s impression of how the development would look. Image: British Sugar

The council is also worried about plans for the non-housing parts of the plan.

British Sugar proposes a new community hub, pre-school, primary school and open space, and is to fund the creation of new sports facilities at Millfield Lane.

But Mr Kenyon says there has been a lack of detail, and the plan to only start the sports pitches once the wider development is under way is risky.

He says: “Inadequate provision to deliver these needed facilities, specifically pre-schools, primary school, secondary school funding and off-site sports provision, is grounds to refuse the application.”

‘Significant progress’

The entrance to the former British Sugar site off Millfield Road, York. Photograph © Google Street View

What do the developers say?

YorkMix spoke with British Sugar’s planning agent, Neil Jones of Rapleys. He said Wednesday’s meeting was a “procedural requirement of the planning appeal process”.

He said: “The reasons for refusal – which relate to the viability of redevelopment and the associated ability of the development to provide for affordable housing, and the detailed mechanisms for the provision of supporting community facilities and infrastructure – are all matters which British Sugar is fully aware of and continues to discuss in detail with officers.”

Mr Jones added:

British Sugar is continuing to work closely with City of York Council on these final outstanding matters, and we also very much hope to be in a position to secure the outline permission from the council, later this year or very early next.

This will enable British Sugar to progress with the redevelopment of this key site to provide the much needed new homes, and supporting community facilities, for the city.

Significant progress has been made in recent months, and British Sugar remains committed to the sustainable redevelopment of the site.

York has often been identified as one of the least affordable cities in the country for housing in recent years, with average prices growing to around eight times the average wage.

The council has tried a succession of policies to address the issue, but has been accused in the past of stifling development.

Site history

Another aerial view of the site set to be developed. Photograph: Bing Maps

British Sugar opened a factory in York in 1926 and expanded it in the 1950s, processing sugar beet.

The site was accessed from Millfield Lane and Plantation Drive and was a distinctive feature for generations in York. Even those who couldn’t see its tall chimneys on the skyline would often pick out the distinctive aroma coming from the factory – loved and loathed in equal measure.

British Sugar announced in 2006 that it was to close the factory the following year. The site was subsequently cleared and, along with the York Central site, is seen as crucial to York’s future development.

Feeling nostalgic? There are 50 photos from the factory’s heyday over at The Press website.