It has been a few months since we posted any updates or sent out any communications to our supporters. Since the Judicial review ruled against us in April 2020 things have been quiet on the Vearse Farm development front. But there are now a few updates to provide you with.
Sale of Vearse Farm development
As we reported in June the development had been put up for sale by Hallam Land with a requirement for bids to be made by 15 July for all or parcels of land on the site.
We have been monitoring Hallam’s website and relevant news sources and we have not seen any updates on how the bidding process went.
Hallam Land’s Interim Business Update for the end June 2020 states that:
“Our house builder customers are at differing stages in returning to the land market. Nonetheless, we are receiving bids for land at prices not noticeably impacted by CV-19, although we do not expect these deals to contribute to this year’s numbers. However, pressure on land pricing and average returns per plot has continued, with the forthcoming changes to building regulations likely to have a growing impact in the medium term.
As we enter H2 Hallam Land is in a strong position, with all its budgeted business for the current year contractually exchanged. Additionally, we are in advanced negotiations on further disposals of plots, which we expect to complete next year.”
It is highly likely that if Hallam had been able to complete any deals with house builders for Vearse Farm this would have been publicised. Hallam’s business model is to facilitate the sale of the approved outline planning development as soon as possible so that they and the land owners can take their cut of the proceeds and leave the house builders to get on with the detailed planning applications and the long term building work.
We suspect that this lack of progress is as a result of the current economic uncertainty and the delay resulting from the judicial review. Most probably bids received didn’t meet Hallam expectations and are subject to ongoing negotiations.
Vearse Farm working group
The working group was formed in a couple of months ago and has representatives from Hallam, Dorset Council, Bridport Town Council and other local organisations with an interest in the Vearse Farm development.
The working group’s draft objective is:
“To facilitate, through the active discussion and participation of the various local stakeholders, public engagement and communication, the next stages in the planning of the Vearse Farm development with particular focus on the design aspects and the delivery of the S106 obligations and benefits it affords for the residents of Bridport and its surrounding parishes.”
See the following link for the report on the group’s latest meeting:
Advearse were not invited to join the working group – which given the legal challenge and our unpopularity with Hallam is not surprising!
However, we fully support the working group activities and their objective mirrors exactly what our focus will be going forward. It is good to see that Bridport Town Council will be making the work of this group public.
We will of course be ready to raise with the working group any issues that need their attention to make sure that Bridport gets the absolute maximum benefit from the Vearse Farm development.
Proposed change to planning application
Hallam have submitted an application that seeks to vary two conditions of the previously granted outline permission, relating to the two vehicular access points on West Road (East Access is opposite Lodge Lane and West Access is opposite the entrance to Crepe Farm)
Hallam wants the flexibility to build these two accesses in the order that matches the eventual order in which the development is delivered – previously the conditions required that the eastern access be delivered first.
The decision on this would most likely be made by Dorset Council planning officials and not be required to go to the planning committee and receive comments/objections from the public and interested parties.
Whilst it may seem a small change it is worrying development as it could set a precedent for other changes to be requested to provide “flexibility. Further amendments could be requested that reduce the benefits set out in 106 Agreement (e.g. provision of Affordable Housing, Miles Cross roundabout, cycle/pedestrian routes etc). Given Dorset Council’s inability to stand up to developers we could see a steady erosion of the benefits from the Vearse Farm development and this Advearse will be watching and applying pressure that Hallam sticks rigidly to and complies with all the conditions of the Sectiion 106 Agreement.
The revised application documents will be accessible on the Dorset Council website from 28th October.
We will be pressing for the decision on this change to go to the full planning committee so that it can be discussed in a public forum rather than be a quiet deal passed by unaccountable council officials.