Developer brands councillor’s comments in the Grantham Journal ‘utterly reprehensible’

Have your say

The on-going row between developer Larfleet Homes and South Kesteven District Council shows no sign of abating this week.

District and county councillor Ray Wootten wrote to the Journal last week vowing to fight Larkfleet Homes “tooth and nail” should they seek to build 1,000 homes at Manthorpe near Grantham.

In response, Larkfleet’s managing director Karl Hick has written to the Journal describing Coun Wootten’s comments as “absolutely reprehensible”.

Mr Hick also continued to criticise the county council’s decision to offer “up-front funding” of £30m to ensure the relief road is built, as well as hit out at the district council for refusing to have any dialogue with the developer.

Here is Mr Hick’s letter in full:

I write with reference to recent articles in your paper regarding the proposed development at Manthorpe and the comments made by Coun Wootten.

It is disappointing to see that Cllrs Wootten’s comments continue SKDC’s previous stance of pre-determination against this site. Coun Wootten is quoted as vowing to “fight them tooth and nail” if Larkfleet Homes resubmit plans for major development on this site.

It is absolutely reprehensible that a District and County Councillor should state that he will fight against a planning application that he has not seen, indeed such a scheme has not been submitted, nor has it yet been prepared. Unfortunately this continues the attitude that we have met with proposals for this site – it is a case of “The answer is no – now what is the question!”

It is also very disappointing that the only form of communication that I can enjoy with the Council is through the pages of the Journal.

Coun Wootten refers to his surprise by my comments about the funding of the Southern Relief Road. It is probably worth reminding your readers of the history of this funding. Originally SKDC proposed to introduce a levy on all development in Grantham that would contribute to the Relief Road. However this proposal was dropped and the owners of the Southern Quadrant land stated as the Core Strategy EIP that the development would fund the Relief Road. Now we apparently have the situation that the development requires circa £30,000,000 of up front funding from the County Council to build this road (assuming that the necessary agreements are reached with third parties).

Would I be cynical if you assumed that the levy proposal was dropped because that would have allowed other developments to proceed knowing that the road was being financed? Would it also be cynical if you assumed that the current proposed funding arrangement has been arrived at purely to create a monopoly situation for new housing from the Southern Quadrant? Cynical or otherwise, that is the situation being created.

Coun Wootten comments upon the effect that the previous application at Manthorpe would have on traffic in Grantham, but he quotes figures with no reference to the analysis undertaken by experts on behalf of the applicant and the County Council. After swathes of analysis and conclusions had been analysed, and hours of evidence had been listened to and cross-questioned the Inspector and the Secretary of State concluded that the impact of the additional traffic from the proposals was not enough to refuse planning. The primary reason for not granting approval was the timing of the application in relation to the GAAP.

I am frustrated that the proposals did not receive planning approval because of the imminent GAAP, especially when this was found to be unsound. If the planning had been granted then the development could be underway and be producing much needed market and affordable housing, the proposed new primary school, doctor’s surgery, shops and a pub, together with providing some of the scheme’s potential £8,000,000 of New Homes Bonus and potential contributions towards the Southern Relief Road.

I am still trying to ascertain the method by which the loan from the County Council will be repaid. Will this be at the expense of other community benefits that would have been provided by the Southern Quadrant? Where has the funding been allocated from, is it at the expense of other County Council projects? Does it increase the burden on the ratepayer through District or County Council precepts?

Will the Council’s actions leave the residents of Grantham waiting for decades for promised improvements as they have waited for the Penine Way link? Nobody at the Council will discuss this with me – perhaps your readers know the answer?

Karl Hick

Managing Director

Larkfleet Homes