Planning Update Delays
As a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, the United Kingdom entered a nationwide lockdown on the 23rd of March 2020. This meant that all non-essential services were required to either close or work remotely where possible. This resulted in a number of local authority services being suspended.
With the current easing of the lockdown, we can confirm that our planning team in the UK are engaging with all the relevant authorities to ascertain the progress of all our sites.
We are treating this as a matter of urgency and we hope to have some updates to share with you in the next 2 to 3 weeks.
Datchet, Royal Borough of windsor and maidenhead Draft Allocation Secured
Datchet is situated in The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in the county of Berkshire. The Royal Borough is renowned for its rich blend of attractive countryside and successful modern business development. There is a wealth of historic buildings, ranging from Windsor Castle and Eton College to the many attractive rural villages.
Datchet is located 20 miles from central London, 5.5 miles from Heathrow Airport and has two main line train stations for London, one of which connects to Waterloo allowing for a new trend of European day-trippers.
As a result of economic prosperity and its proximity to the Thames Valley, the Royal Borough attracts a variety of business enterprises including leading international companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Hitachi, Johnson & Johnson and Nortel Networks. Forecasts suggest that the Thames Valley economy will grow at a faster rate over the next five years than either the South East or the UK as a whole.
Our Planning Department Comments
- At national level there is currently concern that there is insufficient housing being provided to meet the increasing number of households. Whilst the housing stock has been increasing by 185,000 per year, the number of households is expected to grow by 223,000 per year.
- The land at Datchet is in a highly sustainable location close to all amenities and community services and is well served by all public transport facilities.
- Representations have been made, in relation to the South East Plan, that in order to address the issue of contributing to housing needs the overall strategic housing requirement in the South East plan should be increased to 40,000 dwellings per annum and for Windsor and Maidenhead should be increased from 5,620 to 7,820 dwellings, representing 391 dwellings per annum.
- Although the land currently lies within the greenbelt its specific characteristics are such that it does not have a greenbelt function.Â Its removal from the greenbelt would be entirely appropriate and assist in meeting the acknowledged need for housing in this part of the South East.
- The physical location of the land, between the settlement boundary of Datchet and the M4 motorway, is such that its development would not lead to coalescence with any other settlement. This is one of the principal objectives of greenbelt designation and thereby would have no adverse impact on the character of the greenbelt or set a precedent for the release of land elsewhere.
- Flood alleviation assessments have concluded that residential development of the site would be acceptable and would not increase the prospect for flooding elsewhere in the immediate locality.
Latest Planning Update
All work on the balance of the examination of the draft plan that recommenced at the end of 2019 was paused as a result of nationwide lockdown in the UK and this only recommenced on the 7th August.
The timetable for the stage 2 hearings has now been published and they will start on the 5th October. We have been invited to participate in a number of these hearings with the last hearing behing held on the 19 November. This will also mark the end of Stage 2 hearings. Whilst it is not uncommon for individual promotors to participate at this level, we have been invited to a total of 6 hearings at the Inspectors insistence and this in itself is rare.
Once the Stage 2 hearings are complete, we will need to await the Inspectors comments and the Council's statements in response. An indication of when we can expect these will be provided once the hearings are complete and we will hopefully have this feedback by the beginning of 2021.
As mentioned in previous communications, we remain of the position that submitting an application for outline planning upon adoption remains in the best interest of all parties. Current indications suggest that a sale of the site upon adoption but without outline planning would achieve an approximate £18m sale price which would fall short of the projected returns we hope to achieve. In comparison, a sale price of £30-35m would be achievable with outline planning approval secured, significantly greater than initial projections.
An Outline Planning application is a much quicker process and, depending on the point it is submitted, should receive approval within 12 months. This means that we would see the sale of Datchet occurring in Q2 2021. However, given the strength of our position within the Draft Plan, we are exploring the option of submitting an OP application prior to the examination period being completed. This will require us to apply the required flood analysis to our site specifically meaning we would need the data scheduled for release by the EA in May this year. Hence no decision can be taken until then.
We will continue to keep all parties appraised of developments both with the local council's revised timetable when it is made public and with our decision in respect of the OP application. However, we do not expect any changes to the status quo prior to end May.