Controversial conversion bid for Norwich church revived, with £3,980 offer for affordable homes

Flashback to 2016, with people opposed to the original plans for St Peter's Methodist Church in Park Lane . 

Flashback to 2016, with people opposed to the original plans for St Peter's Methodist Church in Park Lane . PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Controversial proposals which would see the conversion of a Norwich church into flats have been revived.

And developers, who saw a previous scheme rejected because they were not prepared to pay £507,000 towards affordable homes elsewhere in the city, now say they should only have to pay £3,980.

Plans for changes to the St Peters Methodist Church and nearby buildings were rejected by Norwich City Council’s planning committee in July last year.

Wymondham-based The Interesting Building Company had sought permission to turn the buildings in Park Lane into 20 homes - a mix of flats, maisonettes and a three-bedroom house.

The developer argued that providing 33pc of affordable homes at the site - as per City Hall’s policy - would render the scheme unviable.

They also refused to pay £507,000 in lieu towards affordable homes elsewhere in the city, offering either three affordable homes on site or a sum of £371,800.

So, councillors turned it down as it did not meet affordable housing policy requirements.

The developer had already submitted an appeal to the planning inspectorate in Bristol - with a hearing due to take place at City Hall next month.

But they have also now resubmitted proposals, with no change to the scheme design, but with a revised viability statement.

The applicant commissioned an independent costs assessment, taking into account the full development costs for the scheme from buying the site through to sales and finance.

That report concluded the cost of development was £4.54m and income would be £5.7m.

It said, once the developer’s allowed 20pc profit of £1,13m is taken out, it would leave just £3,980 payable as a commuted sum for affordable housing.

Former Green city and county councillor Andrew Boswell, who has previously criticised City Hall over its record on affordable housing, said: “My view is that the council really needs to defend its affordable housing policy and look at getting an external organisation to review the viability assessment.”

Earlier this year, the developer also asked for permission to knock down all buildings on site to build eight new homes and lodged another application for up to 10 homes, which would keep the church, but demolish the church hall and some other buildings.

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