Developer hits out at SKDC over Grantham Area Action Plan

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A developer has hit out at South Kesteven District Council after being frozen out of the process to bring new homes to Grantham for “political reasons”.

The Grantham Area Action Plan aims to bring around 5,500 new homes to the town over the next decade.

Developer Larkfleet Homes has been aiming to build more than 1,000 homes at Manthorpe but the company’s managing director Karl Hick says he can’t even get a meeting with anyone at SKDC about his own proposal which he insists would “solve the council’s problems overnight and enable them to get on with the plan”.

Mr Hick said: “We have to deal with the officers on a day-to-day basis but there comes a point where you think ‘this is ridiculous, why won’t they talk to us?’.

“The inspector pretty much said they’ve got it wrong and we instigated that so maybe that’s the cause.

“If they included our scheme the inspector would sign off and it would go ahead. But clearly it’s got political.

“We have tried to get to talk to the officers and said ‘please come and talk to us, it’s ready to go, we can deliver it’.

“Grantham’s growth should be about what’s best for Grantham not what’s best for individuals at the council.”

Mr Hick says there are people within the council “with vested interests for blocking this”. He says the development at Manthorpe, which was originally proposed by South Kesteven District Council in its own Core Strategy before being adopted by Larkfleet, would bring in between £8m and £9m for the council in the form of New Homes Bonuses.

Mr Hick said: “Why are the treasury people at the council not pushing that? They should be.

“Local authorities are pushing for things to happen to get the money but South Kesteven are playing into neighbouring authorities’ hands. Why is Peterborough grabbing the money and South Kesteven not?

“Why not do something to get the money in? It’s ridiculous.”

Mr Hick was scathing in his assessment of the council in light of planning inspector Roland Punshon’s highly critical report which forced the district council to withdraw its action plan.

Mr Hick said: “It was a terrible condemnation on how they acted on this. The inspector could see how they were acting. He knocked it back because he could see they were not dealing with it fairly.

“If you had got a report like that on your journalism you’d have been sacked. It was that bad. It was damning. But the council continues on like nothing happened.”

Reports on the death of the Manthorpe plans have proved premature. A High Court judge ruled against Larkfleet Homes in December but the ruling was only on the developer’s challenge of the legal process and did not reflect on the merits of the proposed development.

However, with nobody at the council willing to speak with Larkfleet on his Manthorpe proposal Mr Hick has little hope of pushing his plans through.

He said: “I’m trying to talk to the council because they hold all the aces but acting in the normal manner is doing us no good at all so instead we have to expose some of the irregularities of what’s going on.

“Speaking out is unlikely to help us but clearly it’s doing us no good keeping quiet and saying nothing. We are getting nowhere.”

SKDC’s strategic director development and growth focus, Ian Yates said Manthorpe was “not designated as a development site”.

He added: “The proposals put forward for up to 1,000 homes have been rejected on a number of occasions. They were recommended for refusal by officers of SKDC, refused by elected Members on the council’s Development Control Committee and dismissed by the Secretary State on Appeal and his decision has been upheld very recently by the High Court.

“Manthorpe is not in our Core Strategy, unlike the North West Quadrant and the Southern Quadrant which aim to grow the town in a balanced way. These developments will bring in the infrastructure to support them as sites including the eagerly anticipated relief road which will also relieve traffic congestion in the town and provide a link from the A1 to the A52. The potential for new housing in these areas is also significantly higher than the Manthorpe site.

“The proposed Manthorpe development itself has no relief road and would only add to congestion.”

Mr Yates denied the council holds any grudge against Larkfleet Homes.

He said: “With the Grantham Area Action Plan, we will be reviewing a range of options and we will welcome a number of discussions with landowners in the town at the appropriate time.

“In choosing the sites, site ownership is irrelevant, it is which sites are the most appropriate, in terms of benefit, for the community of the town.”