No guarantee that new 483-home Hemel Hempstead development will include affordable houses
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There is no guarantee 483 new homes in Hemel Hempstead will feature any affordable housing, a developer has suggested.
FTSE 100 firm Berkeley (BKG:LSE) has plans for an estate with buildings up to 10 storeys high on former gasworks in London Road.
As part of the planning application, consultancy firm Vincent and Gorbing has said it will be a “challenge” to meet a Dacorum Borough Council policy requirement which dictates 35 per cent of homes in larger developments should be “affordable”.
Berkeley’s St William arm asked the Hertfordshire authority for permission to build 441 homes on the site as part of a 2021 application.
The developer withdrew the application in 2023 after the project “stalled” due to viability, the need to put money into special Chilterns woodland protections, and new rules which demand housebuilders provide at least two staircases in buildings over 18 metres in height.
Dacorum Borough Council published the details of a fresh application for 476 flats plus seven houses in January 2024.
“Whether the site is able to provide any ‘affordable’ will be subject to detailed discussions following the review of the viability assessment, which is to be undertaken by the council’s independent assessor,” Vincent and Gorbing’s planning statement to support the application reads.
A viability assessment is part of the planning process which looks at whether the value generated by a development, including affordable housing, is more than the cost of developing it.
The statement adds: “Clearly, the application site as a former gasworks site poses a significant challenge and will be abnormally expensive to bring forward for development compared to other brownfield sites.
“The site also has ongoing operational requirements requiring physical infrastructure [including a gas pressure reduction station which will be retained as it is a part of local gas supply infrastructure] and easements relating to gas mains, which have impacted on the overall developable site area.
“The quantum of upfront costs required to make the site adequate for residential delivery is significant.
“Moreover, since the first application was made there has been continued construction cost inflation in excess of 20 per cent which has not been matched by changes in the market values of new properties, coupled with which are the recently imposed costs of Strategic Access Management and Monitoring and Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace as a result of the Chiltern Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation Mitigation Strategy.”
A Dacorum Borough Council policy known as CS19 requires affordable homes on sites featuring 10 houses or more in Hemel Hempstead.
“35 per cent of the new dwellings should be affordable homes,” the policy reads.
“Judgements about the level, mix and tenure of affordable homes will have regard to … the overall viability of the scheme and any abnormal costs.”
The new homes would sit next to the London Euston to Glasgow West Coast Main Line, within 10 minutes walk of Hemel Hempstead railway station.
A summary of land use sets out 4.9 per cent of the site (0.19 hectares) is “undevelopable”.
Residential buildings and private gardens would cover 25.4 per cent of the site (0.98 ha), with 42.5 per cent (1.64 ha) reserved for public open space and communal gardens.
The plans feature 11 apartment buildings ranging from three to 10 storeys in height.
Seven three-storey homes are also included in the plan.
According to a summary by Berkeley, the site first became a gasworks in 1835 and was turned into open storage after energy firms decommissioned it.
“Berkeley’s goal is to transform industrial sites from a bygone age into beautiful places which people call home,” an application document reads.
“Berkeley believes that master planning is a social endeavour.
“It is not about creating a place for buildings but a place for people.”
The document adds: “The site is perfectly situated where people can walk to the countryside village (Boxmoor), town (Hemel Hempstead) or city (London via train) within minutes of their door – a unique opportunity for sustainable living where a stroll can meet the needs for all social, cultural, health, employment and retail needs.”