A LACK of clarity if affordable housing could be built at the former church site in Maidenhead has prompted councillors to delay planning approval.

Developer Shanley Homes’ outline plans to build 49 flats at the vacant spiritualist church in York Road will be decided at another date.

Councillors sitting on the Maidenhead development management panel were only considering the scheme’s appearance, layout, and scale where a full and final application would be submitted and decided at another stage.

The plans proposed building an eight-storey apartment block and includes 17 one-bedroom and 32 two-bedroom apartments as well as 26 car parking spaces. It also provides bicycle parking and electric vehicle charging points.

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However, no affordable housing was proposed despite the council’s policy for large developments to have at least 30 per cent affordable homes.

Planning officers, who recommended councillors to defer and delegate to the head of planning for approval subject to conditions, say it’s ‘unfortunate’ but explained an independent viability assessment stated Shanley would not make a large enough profit with this mix.

Royal Borough Observer: Layout of the flats plan siteLayout of the flats plan site

However, a condition for the developer to review its development finances to see if affordable housing can be secured in the future was attached.

But this didn’t please councillors, who convened on Wednesday, June 15, and wanted to see this assessment for themselves to see if some affordable housing can be secured.

The chairman of the committee, Cllr Maureen Hunt (Con: Hurley & Walthams) said: “This council is very concerned about affordable housing.

“For all those people, our residents, who are finding it difficult, we want to help them in any way whatsoever and we’re having lots of flats built and it’s only fair for those people who can’t afford to buy outright to have a step on the ladder somewhere along the line in whatever way.”

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Meanwhile, Cllr Joshua Reynolds (Lib Dem: Furze Platt) put forward a motion to defer the application, which was seconded by Cllr Gerry Clark (Con: Bisham & Cookham), so members can read the viability assessment in full rather than the planning officer’s notes on it.

This is to make certain that a level of affordable housing could be delivered.

Planning officers believed they have the evidence necessary to warrant a decision and their recommendation would not change. They also warned members Shanley could lodge an appeal against the non-determination.

Eight councillors decided to defer the application whereas Cllr Leo Walters (Con: Bray) abstained.