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Developer’s refusal to build affordable homes could see church conversion plans in Norwich fail

St Peter's methodist church and church halls on Park Lane in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

St Peter's methodist church and church halls on Park Lane in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

A refusal by developers to provide a suitable number of affordable homes at a former church in Norwich could scupper their plans completely.

Wymondham-based The Interested Building Company wants to convert the now unused St Peter’s Methodist Church, off Park Lane, and the associated church hall and Boys’ Brigade buildings into 20 homes.

They had claimed providing at least 33pc of affordable homes would not be cost-effective, but an independent assessment has since determined that in the current housing market building seven affordable homes as part of the scheme would be viable.

An alternative would be for the developer to offer a commuted sum of £507,000 towards off-site provision.

The Interested Building Company has disputed the calculations and said they are not prepared to pay half a million pounds in lieu.

They have offered either three affordable homes on site or a commuted sum of £371,800.

Given the clash with their policy, officers at Norwich City Council are recommending the application is refused when it comes to planning committee next week.

In the report to the committee, officers say: “The failure to deliver either affordable housing on-site or a contribution towards offsite provision of a level which has been independently assessed as viable, is considered a significant conflict with planning policy and a reason to refuse the application.”

Martin Aust, director of Pathfinder development consultants, said providing affordable homes would be difficult as there was not enough demand from providers such as housing associations.

“The market in Norfolk for grant free s106 affordable housing provision suffers from a general lack of capacity and competition from registered providers,” he said in correspondence over the application.

“As there has been an upturn in development activity by private house-builders in the last few years this has exasperated issues of supply and demand.”

Figures from the city council show from 2013-2016 there were 905 new homes in developments where the affordable housing policy should have applied. This should have resulted in 299 affordable homes – but only 31 were delivered.

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