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Diss schools could miss out on community funding

14:14 18 June 2012

The Long Meadow homes site

The Long Meadow homes site

Schools in a Norfolk town and neighbouring village are set to miss out on £552,997 funding to increase capacity, if a revised plan for a housing development is given the go ahead.

Developer C-Zero has submitted revised plans for the Long Meadow site between Diss and Roydon to South Norfolk Council for 102 homes after building work on a previous scheme for 114 homes stalled when mortgage lenders refused to provide funding for the Discounted Market Sale agreements, whereby the homes would have been sold at less than market value.

A decision on the plans is due to be made at a planning committee meeting this Wednesday, but the council’s planning officers have recommended the plans be refused on the grounds the scheme may not meet the need for more affordable housing and would not provide sufficient community infrastructure funding to address the educational needs created by more children moving into the area.

A report from planning officer Gary Hancox said the loss of the cash would have a “significant” impact on the two main schools in the area, Roydon Primary School and Diss High School where there was no spare capacity.

The original plans stalled after 29 of the 114 homes had been built and the reduced scheme envisages a further 73 homes be built, bringing the total to 102.

Of these, 61 will be affordable homes with 19 available for rent, 17 for shared home ownership and 25 for equity loan.

The other 12 homes will be available on the open market.

So far, C-Zero has contributed £97,840 towards bus services, libraries, Diss walking and cycling and the provision of a bus stop, but was seeking exemption from the rest of the community infrastructure payments, instead offering to pay £235,620 at a later date when quity loan purchasers buy the rest of the equity.

Mr Hancox’s report stated the discounted market sale plan had been dropped in favour of the alternative occupation arrangements, which either did not need a mortgage or would be backed by mortgage lenders.

The developer is also banking on receiving funding from the government’s Get Britain Building Fund after the site was listed among 224 building projects chosen to receive cash from a £570m pot to help re-start building work on stalled homes developments.

However, C-Zero director Robert Pearson did not agree with the planning officers’ recommendation, stating the council’s housing officer had said the revised plan was “the best that could be achieved” and a developer working on a neighbouring scheme for 120 homes was only having to provide just over £400,000 in community funding, significantly less than the Long Meadow site.

He said: “This scheme is currently offering more community infrastructure funding than will be required when the new community Infrastructure Levy is introduced in September.”

Diss Town Mayor Graham Minshull said: “The point of view of the council is that the developer made that commitment to provide section 106 community funding before they built these houses and they ought to make good on it.”

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