Former Ford HQ housing development plan approved despite parking concerns

Plans to redevelop land near the former Ford HQ in Brentwood have been given the go ahead – despite concerns of a “hideous” shortfall in parking.

Fairview New Homes – which bought the former Ford HQ car park for in excess of £35 million – was given permission for 133 homes at a meeting on Tuesday, June 29.

The permission came with outline permission for a new care home.

The Ford Central Office building is being developed into 320 flats by Land Charter Homes. However the development has been criticised on a number of points – most pointedly over its provision for affordable housing and parking.

An independent consultant to Brentwood Borough Council said: “Taken as a whole, cumulatively the submission is deficient in place-making and not informed by the context and qualities of this Countryside setting.

“As a consequence of the above I advise the proposals are not supported by Urban Design.”

The Government has sought to improve the economics of developments by allowing developers to apply for ‘Vacant Building Credit’ which reduces the number of affordable homes required on sites.

But even with this offset, the development only has 27 affordable units.

Councillor Phil Mynott, who sits on the planning commitee, said: “The basic issues here – and the most glaring issues – are the one in relation to the provision of affordable housing and parking spaces.

“The Vacant Building Credit was introduced by National Government to lower the bar for applicants for housing builders in order to provide less affordable housing, although affordable housing is at a premium and we need it.

“But basically it is there to make it easier for developers that they don’t have to provide as much affordable housing as they might otherwise have had to.

“You apply that in this case and you arrive at 34 units when you apply the Vacant Building Credit. But even when you lower the bar by applying the Vacant Building Credit this application cannot manage to get over the bar because it can only manage to provide 276 affordable properties.

“I do not find the application acceptable in that area.

“The borough has a significant undersupply of affordable homes but we are not going to get to a solution for that undersupply if developers keep getting away with not providing as many affordable houses as they are supposed to be.”

Over all there is a shortfall of about 45 parking spaces, Brentwood Borough Council estimates suggest.

Cllr Mynott added: “The car parking space situation is frankly hideous. Overall we are talking about a 16 per cent shortfall which doesn’t sound too bad.

“But if you look at the two bedroom flats – which is the majority of the flats – in  the site then developers are only talking about providing half of the car parking spaces they need to. Nowhere near close to the right number.”

Case officer Mike Ovenden said: “The application originally came in at 151 dwellings and the car parking provision was real low and in order to change that balance the number has come down to 133 dwelling and the number of spaces has increased.

“What is particularly significant here is the developer is proposing significant funding of public transport for example £226,000 on the bus routes and is looking at a parking scheme so people will not be able to park outside their house where  it is not in a parking zone because they will be fined.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter