At a Planning Committee Meeting today I discovered that one government body had disposed of a piece of government property to another government body, for a value “not available” on the Land Registry website, with the simple intention of getting that land planning permission in order to sell or transfer it on to another developer.
At that same Planning Committee, despite my strenuous appeals that the Committee should not allow that very piece of land to be overdeveloped at a density of housing nearly double the average for similar land across County Durham, I watched one councillor propose the planning application “with regret” and another councillor second it “with regret”. It was passed.
And why the regret? It appeared that both the proposer and seconder of the application felt that 20 dwellings on the former Magistrates Court on Ashdale Road, Consett, were too many for the size of the plot, but felt that they had no alternative but to support the application.
I reach that conclusion because the same councillors had just voted against a proposal to defer a decision and seek a re-negotiation of the number of dwellings.
For the record 1: The average density of housing on previously developed land across England (including the densely populated areas in and around London) is 37 dwellings per hectare. The average in County Durham is 21.
The proposal for Consett Magistrates Court is 39 dwellings per hectare. That’s nearly twice the county average.
For the Record 2: I have put in a Freedom of Information Request to “Homes England”, the current owners of the land, to find out how much they “paid” for it.
I think it’s in the public interest to know what the magistrates court was worth before it had planning permission, and how much it becomes worth with planning permission.
It’s not over yet: Today’s meeting contained a number of assurances that this was only an “in principle” decision, called “reserved matters”. The developer, whoever that may turn out to be, will have to convince the planners and committee of their detailed proposals.
If their proposal is for twenty homes they’ll have some difficulty in convincing me.