Completion delays forecast
The York Council has confirmed that the Yorspace communal housing project has failed to purchase the development plot allocated for them nearly 3 years ago.
Although the 19 home site wasn’t as controversial as some other parts of the development, neighbours had been assured that a prompt start would be made on site. This was considered to be essential if a maximum 3 year site build was to be achieved as promised by the Council It is understood that the area which is allocated as a play area, will first be used as a building compound for the Yorspace development.
The Yorspace development became controversial when it was revealed in January 2019 that no conditions had been attached to the sale which required occupiers to be in housing need, have low incomes or, indeed, even be York residents. There was some scepticism about the sale price of £300,000 as a similar nearby plot had been sold for 50% more than that figure.
A Council official, at a private meeting held in August 2017, had agreed an “exclusivity agreement” to sell the land to what was then styled as a “Mutual Home Ownership Society”
Planning permission was granted in March 2019 despite concerns about lack of parking provision and the absence of “affordable housing”. Yorspace was forced last year to extend its funding appeal deadline for investors, although it later announced that it had reached its income target. This should have allowed funds to be transferred to the Council but a Freedom of Information response has today confirmed that this did not happen.
With other elements of the development also now in delay – there is no sign of the “self build” homes, elderly persons sheltered housing or community buildings being started – the development timetable is likely to stetch to 5 years or more.
This is bad news for some neighbours who have complained bitterly on the Save Lowfields Playing Field Facebook page about noise, dust and the disruption and damage being caused by plant & supplies accessing the site. Residents claim to have complained to the Council and the local MP without a response.
The adjacent “self build” plots are also stalled. A year ago the Council agreed to market the plots through “Custom Build Homes”. Buyers were supposed to start construction “within 12 months” and have completed all works “within 2 years”.
The Council needs to get a grip on what is happening at Lowfields. Work is continuing on constructing the speculative housing development although whether the Chancellor’s recent decision on reduced stamp duty will prompt a queue of buyers remains to be seen.
The Council must put a clear deadline by which work on the other sections of the site must be completed. Residents don’t want o spend half their lives living on, or adjacent to, a building site.
If Yorspace or others can’t complete then the parcels of land should be sold to those who are able to get on and provide additional housing quickly.