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Roads row could leave major development plans in tatters
PLANS for 200 new homes on Worcester’s former Ronkswood Hospital site could be in tatters - after developers refused to pay £900,000 towards road improvements.
The city council’s planning committee has done a u-turn on Robert Hitchins’ plans to revamp the derelict site after a row over transport cash.
Last December the committee agreed for the development to go ahead, on the condition that the company handed over £4,530 for each property to fund better infrastructure.
In April the developer submitted a fresh identical outline planning application for the site, but refused to pay the cash, claiming it would not create a “severe impact” on the roads.
The planning committee refused the bid this afternoon, meaning the entire project could now be shelved.
Robert Hitchins, based in Cheltenham, has now lodged an appeal to the national Planning Inspectorate in a bid to get it overturned.
The site, off Newtown Road, has been prime for development for many years - but the current stand-off has angered planning experts.
The money, which would have totalled £906,000 for all 200 homes, would have been added to a County Hall led project known as the Worcester Transport Strategy.
Nick Kay, from the planning team at the city council, said: “This application is identical to the one which was approved last December, and at the time there was a requirement for the funding towards this.
“The fresh application suggests there is no need for a contribution - the development is totally acceptable apart from the failure to address that.
“The refusal to accept the Worcester Transport Strategy is the reason why we are recommending it be rejected.”
During the debate politicians on the committee said the area was already suffering from traffic problems, and backed the council’s stance.
Councillor Lucy Hodgson said: “I certainly welcome the fact the council is calling for the inclusion of this highways money.
“This application is almost a tipping point for congestion in the area.”
Councillor Geoff Williams, who also sits on the committee, said: “This particular issue is very important indeed, in terms of trying to secure vital transport improvements.”
Letters had also been sent to the city council from nearby residents about traffic concerns, backing up their view that the developer should fund it.
The entire committee agreed the reasons for refusal.
Under the plan, Robert Hitchins’ would create an access point on Newtown Road, opposite the junction with Canterbury Road.
It also says the development includes emergency access from Newtown Road.
Because Robert Hitchins’ felt the city council did not vote on the fresh planning application quickly enough, it objected to the Planning Inspectorate on the grounds of ‘non-determination’ before today's meeting.
An inquiry is now expected to start within weeks, and if the authority wins the development will collapse.
If Robert Hitchins succeeds, it can go ahead without the transport windfall being handed over, and taxpayers’ would be liable for the costs of the inspector.
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