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Development on Haverhill car park is put on hold

The planned development for the car park behind Haverhill Arts Centre (3991418)
The planned development for the car park behind Haverhill Arts Centre (3991418)

Contentious plans to build 14 new homes on the car park behind Haverhill Arts Centre will be re-examined after an agreement was reached at a West Suffolk council meeting on Tuesday.

Members of the Joint Executive (Cabinet) for Forest Heath District and St Edmundsbury Borough Councils backed a recommendation by councillors to pause work on the car park project following extensive consultation to look at issues raised.

At Tuesday's meeting councillors also backed proposals to solely own Barley Homes (Group) Ltd, the council owned development company.

The move means Barley Homes will be owned only by Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils, who will take on the 50 per cent share owned by Suffolk County Council since the company was constituted in 2016.

All of the recommendations backed on Tuesday will now go to the individual councils for a final decision.

Councillor Sara Mildmay-White, Portfolio Holder for Housing, said: "We have listened to concerns about the development of the car park site in Haverhill.

"While no planning application will meet everyone's aspirations I think we have an opportunity to see if we can still pursue some of the elements raised during the planning process.

"This is one of the strengths of Barley Homes that, unlike other commercial developers, we will try to achieve the best scheme we can for the benefit of our communities.

"Barley Homes is the right thing to do to make sure we have the right homes and that public owned land is used in the right way to benefit our communities the most.

"We know that many of the homes, including the affordable ones, our communities need are unlikely to be delivered commercially and that the profit would go into the pockets of developers rather than supporting services our communities rely on.

"Barley Homes provides an income stream to the councils at a time when there is no central government funding.

"This new arrangement gives the opportunity to reduce the complexity of the governance, bureaucracy and duplication that can arise when working with three organisations, and enable West Suffolk Council to focus on delivering homes.

"We will of course continue to work closely with Suffolk County Council on managing and encouraging growth and investment in our area.

All Councils have worked closely on starting up this innovative company which uses public owned land to meet local demand that the commercial sector would be unlikely to have developed. It also means that the income from development, including much needed affordable homes, would stay in the hands of tax payers to support services instead of going to developers.

The business case for Barley Homes focuses on developing three sites in Haverhill.

The sites include the former Westfield Primary School site, in Manor Road, for which revised site layouts have been considered by both planning and highways, and a public consultation held throughout the summer (including specific liaison with local councillors and Haverhill Town Council).

It is expected that a planning application is imminent for 37 homes, which includes 11 affordable properties. If approved, work would be expected to proceed next summer.

A development brief is also being progressed alongside development of the planning application for the site in School Lane of the old Castle Hill Middle School.

It is expected the brief and application would be considered next summer, with work to commence on site in the autumn if approved.

Haverhill Town Hall Car Park - a planning application has been submitted for this site, to deliver 14 homes for market sale (of which four will be affordable work on this will be paused for further discussions.

The meeting heard how councillors have listened to concerns about the development of the car park site in Haverhill. Barley Homes and its representatives have spoken at length to local stakeholders in Haverhill and tried to meet all the comments they have raised but some concerns still persist.

It was agreed the pause would help try and resolve some of those issues.