MP defends affordable homes waiver for prime development site

stewart_jackson_mp09:34 Wednesday 9th September 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: There was uproar in Peterborough yesterday after permission was given for a developer to backtrack on plans for the old Peterborough District Hospital site. You know, the thing that’s been derelict for, well, since the old Queen died. Lands Improvement Holdings had been set to pay £1.2 million to Peterborough City Council and build more than 50 affordable homes on the site. But the company claim they now can’t afford it, and at a meeting last night pleaded with councillors to reduce the amount of money to less than £1 million, AND to scrap any plans to build any affordable housing. Yes, the state this county is in, people need all these homes. They’re not going to build any affordable housing. Is that right? How do we solve this county’s housing crisis if we don’t build affordable homes? MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson, let’s get his view on it. Stewart, good morning.
STEWART JACKSON: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Is this right?

STEWART JACKSON: Yes I think it is, because if this site has been derelict ….
STEWART JACKSON: Well let me finish. .. effectively since 2010. The hospital is an eyesore. The fact is what you’re not telling the listeners is that 350 homes are going to be built on the site.
PAUL STAINTON: For profit. Yes.
STEWART JACKSON: The developers have .. well that’s not a bad thing. They are in business Paul. The developers are providing a badly needed new primary school on the site. They’re going to clear an eyesore, and hopefully it will be an exemplar building development.
PAUL STAINTON: So what you’re saying is profit is more important than affordable housing.
STEWART JACKSON: No I’m not saying that at all. You’re mistaken. What I am saying is that there was a real chance, a real risk, that the site would not be viable, would remain an eyesore, unless the Section 106 agreement that was originally signed under different circumstances was altered, and I think that’s absolutely fine. You should also remember before you take a pretty negative view of affordable housing, Peterborough has one of the best records of any local authority in England for building affordable homes over the last five years ..
PAUL STAINTON: Well keep going then.
STEWART JACKSON: … within the context of that.
PAUL STAINTON: I don’t understand. Are they the only land developer in the country or something? Is that .. Surely somebody else could have taken it on. This is prime real estate, next to the railway station. This is prime commuter belt land. Is this not just about profit at the expense of people who need a house?
STEWART JACKSON: No. What it is is the fact that the costs of demolition and remediation of that site are significantly in excess of those they envisaged a number of years ago, and were agreed with Council officers. Circumstances have changed. But there are still going to be 350 new homes built on that site, as agreed, as an integral part of the City Centre Action Plan, an integral part of the planning policies of Peterborough. It will be another part of the jigsaw, with North Westgate, some of the other development. But I made the point again that Peterborough has built a very significant number of affordable homes over the last five years.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes but this says to any developer out there that don’t want to build them and want to make more profit, here’s a green light, just ring the Council up, tell them you might not build them if you’re not making enough profit, and they’ll let you off.
STEWART JACKSON: Well this is a unique site. You’re looking at four separate tranches of land. You’ve got listed buildings like the Gables, the Memorial Wing. You’ve had an imperative to build a new primary school on the site, which is badly needed, because we know how old West Town Primary is. And yes it is near the station . It’s near the A1. It’s on a fine thoroughfare into the city on Thorpe Road. But nevertheless it’s quite a complex and difficult site, and of course Lands Improvement aren’t building there. They’re just remediating the land and then will sell it on to developers in due course.