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'We've been hung over a barrel' - Methodist church plans finally get the go ahead

PUBLISHED: 14:49 14 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:58 14 March 2019

Neighbours to St Peter's Methodist Church have campaigned against plans to turn it into houses. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Neighbours to St Peter's Methodist Church have campaigned against plans to turn it into houses. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

A long-running stalemate between developers and the city council over a Golden Triangle church has finally been broken - after councillors admitted they were "hung over a barrel" by the homebuilders.

The Wymondham-based Interesting Building Company has been attempting to convert St Peter’s Methodist Church in Norwich for more than three years, but has never been able to find common ground with the council over affordable housing.

However, the outcome of a planning appeal - which indicated to the council the maximum contribution they could demand from the project - left councillors with little choice but to approve the appeal.

Inspector Mike Worden concluded that the absolute maximum the city council could expect from the proposals was £167,108, which is what the IBC offered in their latest bid.

This amount is more than £300,000 less than the £507,000 the council demanded at first time of asking, and roughly half the amount IBC had initially offered.

However, the inspector’s guidelines meant the developers were in a far stronger position heading into an appeal were the plans to be refused.

Rachel Trevor, Labour councillor for Lakenham, said she felt the council had been hung over the barrel with the latest application, a sentiment echoed by committee chairman Keith Driver.

Roger Ryan, Labour councillor for the University ward, added: “I’m disappointed we did not take the £371,800 when it was offered, as we have now been left in a difficult position.

“If we were to turn it down it would go straight to another appeal which we would unlikely win and could end up being fined.”

However, while the development has been given the city council’s approval, it could still fail to materialise if IBC is unable to finalise its purchase of the land.

Tomasina Winch-Furness, IBC project director, said: “We are delighted to have planning permission and to be able work with the council to build a quality new development.”

Richard Kerrison of IBC added: “Common sense prevails.”

Ahead of the decision, Green councillor Denise Carlo spoke out against the development, comparing it to Theresa May’s Brexit deal for continually coming back for a vote with little alteration.

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