Trouble at Mills
Reporter: Robbie Gill
Date online: 26 August 2013
DEVELOPERS behind the controversial Royal George Mills site have applied to halt their affordable housing subsidy payments — leaving Oldham Council £450,000 out of pocket.
The bid will be discussed at a planning committee meeting on Wednesday and the recommendation is for members to authorise the proposal.
The committee has refused permission for the public to speak on the issue, either verbally or in writing. If authorised, the decision will see developers Wiggett Construction, who agreed to pay £701,283 in three instalments rather than provide a 20 per cent quota of affordable housing, cap their payment at £233,761.
This is the latest in a series of projects whereby financial settlements have been agreed and developers have subsequently sought ways to avoid payment.
Councillor John McCann says the decision will cut £450,000 from housing in Saddleworth.
He said: “This is one of a series of incidents where developers have been let off. Over £700,000 was written off at Knoll Mill and this will make the total almost £1.5million in two years.
“Now the housing market has risen by four per cent, this is not the time to be saying to developers you don’t need to meet your obligations.
“We are desperately short of affordable housing in the area and the council is removing the risk from developers and covering it themselves.”
The initial application in 2002, to erect 48 houses and 28 flats on the site of the former Royal George Mills, Greenfield, was rejected by the council. Wiggett appealed but the Inspector backed the council.
The developer submitted a revised plan for 66 houses, again rejected by the council. But another appeal gave the developed the go-ahead, with conditions concerning flood-plain issues, road safety, nature conservation and building materials — plus an obligation to provide 20 per cent of affordable housing.
This last obligation was removed in November 2007 when Wiggett feared the poor housing markt would bring them no profit on such a deal.
Company director Phillip Wigget said he woudn’t comment before the meeting.
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