Gilston developers set for huge windfall by scrapping plans to build 1,700 affordable homes claim property consultants

News / Fri 17th Nov 2023 at 11:37am

PLANS to build 10,000 homes on former Green Belt land on the border of Harlow have become mired in controversy because developers have removed 1,700 affordable homes from the plans reports property experts Continuum.

For reasons that remain unclear, East Herts District Council have accepted the developers’ argument that the 1,700 affordable homes, will now be sold at full market price of approximately £480,000 each. The impact of turning affordable homes into market homes for sale is the developers benefitting from an increase in profits of approximately £130 million.

The consequence of the Council’s decision to accept the developers’ argument is 1,700 affordable homes the borough needs will now need to be delivered on other, yet to be identified, sites that are likely to be Green Belt. Just 23% of the homes at Gilston will now be affordable, far below the 40% minimum standard for large developments.

Viability in planning expert Murray Lloyd has undertaken an in-depth review of all the available information that has informed the Council’s decision. As a result of this review, there are strong reasons supported by evidence that the Council should reconsider its position before issuing planning permission.

A key document underpinning this evidence was provided by the Council following a Freedom of Information request. A report produced in May 2022 on behalf of the Council and neighbouring Authorities states the Gilston Garden Town development can in fact deliver all of the required affordable housing – a total of 4,000 affordable homes – despite the developers insisting otherwise..

It would appear this report was not made available to members of the planning committee or the general public.

There are a series of publicly available documents the Council has relied upon when making its decision. These documents when scrutinised reach conclusions that are challengeable, not least in relation to the hugely inflated cost assessment produced by the developers which suggests an increase in excess of £400 million when compared to previous estimates.

Murray Lloyd Director at Continuum said:

“In the case of Gilston Garden Town, it is difficult to see a compelling justification for why the development cannot deliver the required 1,700 affordable homes especially in light of the scheme benefitting from approximately £111 million of government grant funding.”

The two Gilston applications were considered in February and March 2023, when the Conservatives ran East Herts District Council. The Council agreed in principle to approve the applications, but left Council officials to negotiate the details and then issue the planning permissions.

The Conservatives were then kicked out at the May local elections and replaced by the Greens and Lib Dems who had campaigned against developments like Gilston.

Continuum’s review has now landed on the Councils’ desks, and the new Council, led by Green Councillor Ben Crystall, is being asked to make sure that everything is above board before the planning permissions are issued.

So far, they have refused to do so.

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13 Comments for Gilston developers set for huge windfall by scrapping plans to build 1,700 affordable homes claim property consultants:

2023-11-17 13:16:14

So hold on am I understanding this right, East Herts council released the document after a FOI request (so therefore proof it was in their possession), but then a person (or people) within the council didn't make it available to the planning committee...? What's the odds on a £130million document coincidentally not being available when the decision was needed to be made? That is outrageous and stinks to high-heaven of corruption if I've understood that right.

2023-11-17 14:12:57

So the usual removal of any social benefits begins, what else is going to be sacrificed to the usual greed of the developers.

Luke Burton
2023-11-17 15:27:24

This is literally how every single property developer operates. It's not at all surprising.

2023-11-17 15:42:26

The relevant Council's involved should stop any planning permission for the whole development. Disgusting state of affairs.

2023-11-17 15:43:55

The relevant Council's involved should refuse planning permission for the whole development. Disgusting state of affairs.

2023-11-17 16:18:52

They'll keep on coming back and asking for planning permission to squeeze in extra houses and they'll renege on infrastructure obligations saying the local authority has already provided them and community facilities will be scaled back - It will make Gilden Park look classy!

old harlow vigilante
2023-11-17 19:57:39

another Gilden Park fiasco more money in developers pocket,and no homes for our harlow children . stop the development now

2023-11-17 20:56:34

Time for a Judicial Review on Gilston and perhaps the whole hggt pfp project. This doesn't add up.

2023-11-17 23:20:48

Seems like another neighbouring council ( in this case Herts, but yes I’m referring to you Epping !! ) right royally abusing Harlow .. while our local MP and Council do absolutely nothing . NOTHING.. to protect the Towns best interests … quite pathetic testimony to the influence of local MP and government , quite pointless.. might as we get rid of the lot of them....

Hey Big Spender
2023-11-17 23:38:58

Harlow Council need to stop this nonsense and refuse planning permission. Why is it that other Councils appear to have more sway over how this development is going to be built? Gilston will be just another faceless housing development with no breathing space for those who live there. The big property developers in Britain are a bunch of shameless charlatans.

Alan B'Stard
2023-11-18 10:39:45

And so it begins....I wouldn't mind, years ago this was all hush hush and brown envelopes now it's millions in foreign bank accounts. And the worst thing? It's all in plain sight where the Phsycos at the top think we're all stupid underneath them......I'm not religious but I do really hope there is a judgement day.... disgraceful

Kim Oconnor
2023-11-18 11:16:50

All councils knew facilities would be the last to be built.. we were there at last consultation... Knowing what Developers are like, if they want to add or take away, and it's a no from councils, there just chuck it back to government, where its approved... It's not right.. But councils signed and sealed it.. This is what happens when you join up with other councils....Not on my door step..All we get is thousands an thousands of unaffordable housing estates around our boarders. That benift none of us that live in Harlow, doesn't help the 6,000 waiting on homes, the reduction in affordability is a disgrace, and should not of been allowed to happen.. The big fat cat Developers are the only ones that gain.. Harlow doesn't even get council tax from them... Unless this is a dramatic change, our services will not survive, its a crumbling shell now.. Time for a judicial review..HGGT will ruin Harlow..

2023-11-19 20:11:09

Here we go again Harlow ! No surprises , use our services don’t pay us tax unless redefined boundaries. Like Epping expansion. Meantime just use us as a road link.😠

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