Families ‘consistently let down’ at Costessey’s Queen’s Hill estate

Families living on an unfinished estate in Costessey have been so 'consistently let down' that a council is considering obtaining an injunction to stop any further development until community facilities are built.

For years, people living at the Queen's Hills estate have been waiting for the amenities promised when they bought their homes, such as play areas and a community centre. When lead developer Cofton went into administration in 2009, it caused a series of delays and legal wrangles involving administrator Deloitte and a consortium of the other developers involved.

In a latest attempt to kick-start work on community facilities, South Norfolk Council put a deal on the table, saying the developers would not have to build the remaining 26 affordable homes on the site, in exchange for stumping up �675,000 cash towards a community centre by the end September and building play areas by the end of November.

The deadlines have now passed and nothing has happened and, at a meeting on tomorrow, councillors will be asked to agree that planning officers prepare a report on the process for, and implications of, obtaining an injunction to prevent any further building of homes.

The report, which will be considered by the council's planning committee, says: 'The levers for negotiations have been finely balanced given the economic downturn, a matter the council has consciously had in mind at all times along with the desire at the heart of its negotiations to deliver the much needed community benefits.

'Regrettably, the council and residents are now in the position that they have been fundamentally and consistently let down by the developers who continue to build and sell houses.'

It goes on to say that a decision is now required on the potential need for further action, specifically an injunction to prevent any further development of the site until the developers have met certain conditions which were set out when planning permission was first granted.

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The original deal included a stipulation for the developers to build a �500,000 community building and to provide a recreation space.

The council put forward an offer that would mean the remaining 26 affordable homes would not have to be built, and for the developers to pay �675,000 towards a community building by the end of September. The plan was for Costessey Parish Council to oversee and build the centre, adding in an extra �200,000 of its money to make it bigger than originally planned.

However, councillors are being asked to decide tomorrow if they want to withdraw this offer and look at obtaining an injunction, or if they want to set yet another deadline for developers.

Blair Campbell, who lives in Cheena Court and has been trying to re-establish a community group, said hundreds of families on the estate had been left with nowhere for their children to play.

He said: 'Everyone feels just completely let down.

'Nobody wants the injunction to be served be as there's a fear that the builders will up sticks and leave everything completely unfinished, but there's a feeling that something has to be done.

'The measures the council and planners have taken to date haven't delivered and haven't held the builders to account.'

Other issues on the site include finishing the planting of the country park, providing bus shelters, a bus gate and emergency access, and the poor state of the roads, which need to be brought up to scratch before Norfolk County Council will officially adopt them.

Tim East, South Norfolk Councillor for Old Costessey, said the developers had failed to meet deadlines not once, not twice but quite a few times.

He said: 'It's a very difficult position for the planning committee to decide.'

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon wrote to administrators Deloitte to query why the situation had not yet be sorted, and said it seemed to him the council had been bending over backwards in an attempt to find a resolution.

He said: 'Everyone seems to be going round blaming everyone else, but it's a very frustrating situation and it must be even more frustrating for the residents.

'It's eight tenths of the way to being a fantastic estate. It has a brilliant primary school with a fantastic headteacher.

'We have got a fantastic facility for kids, but we need the rest of the facilities.'

The Evening News contacted Deloitte for comment but they were unable to respond by the time of going to press.

The community group can be contacted by email at QHresidents@gmail.com

Do you have a story about a housing development? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk.

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