£1.8million development lies empty
A DEVELOPER says he is being held over a barrel by planners after spending £1.8million on luxury flats nobody can live in.
A DEVELOPER says he is being 'held over a barrel' by planners after spending £1.8million on luxury flats nobody can live in.
Paul Routledge of Cadogan House Associates has invested the cash into transforming the former St Saviour's Church site in Locking Road, Weston.
But he says the saga, which has since unravelled over two years, means the 13 one, two and three-bedroomed flats, are now standing empty and could remain so for some time.
The managing director, who has owned the housing development company in Meadow Street for 10 years, said: "The first time we applied for planning permission two years ago we were told we had run out of time.
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"The second time we were asked for £84,000 as a section 106 contribution and I said it was too much.
"On the third occasion the council said they would lower this to £46,000 and the application was agreed.
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"But then we got a problem with the roof and had to change the style of the windows.
"We took an amended plan to the council by hand and it wasn't until months later, after work had been done at the site, they told us we were contravening the application with the windows.
"The council then said they wanted £86,000 from us for the section 106 agreement if we reapply.
"The work has nearly finished there now and I cannot pay that much money up front.
"The council says it feels it is being fair and reasonable but hasn't given me a reason for why it wants more money.
"If I appeal it could take two years. They have me held over a barrel.
"I cannot market the properties or rent them out."
A section 106 contribution is a cash sum given by developers to fund community facilities.
A North Somerset Council spokesman said: "The planning application was approved in 2005 when a section 106 sum of £47,500 was agreed.
"That needed to be paid before work started and it wasn't.
"The applicant also made a lot of changes to what was agreed and the council agreed he could make a retrospective planning application.
"Because of this it had to be treated as a new application and in the meantime new national guidelines were introduced for section 106 agreements.
"So the contribution had to be increased to nearly £80,000.