As part of the agreement to permit the enabling development reached at the second public inquiry, the Priory owners were required to submit a Business Strategy to TDC detailing how the main heritage assets at the Priory would be restored over the agreed period of 10 years. It includes funding from the approved enabling development, grants and commercial funding matched against restoration costs.
The Priory owners, in conjunction with the St Osyth Priory and Parish Trust, submitted this strategy for approval by TDC Planning Committee at its meeting on 12th March 2019. At the start of proceedings, the Chief Planning Officer stated that following a number of meetings over the past 18 months they were in agreement on the proposed use of the buildings for a number of enterprises but there was no agreement on how the financial shortfall should be funded. This amounts to between £26.5M and £32,4M depending on the amount of grant funding that might be obtained. The strategy as submitted relies heavily on further enabling development throughout the District to raise sufficient funds. However, the strategy did not identify the sites or scale of any such developments or the associated funds that would be generated. The one site identified was Foot’s Farm on the outskirts of Little Clacton where a proposed 245 dwellings would contribute £1.76M which gave a measure of what would be required. Committee members expressed concerns that if this were scaled up it might equate to several thousands of houses and if they approved the Strategy, they would be morally compelled to grant permission for these houses on sites as yet unknown. This would be at the expense of affordable housing, funding for educational, medical and infrastructure facilities which would be a burden on communities not directly concerned with the Priory – a concept we are well aware of in St Osyth and one that no-one would surely wish on other communities! Recently, TDC have announced that they will not contest an appeal for 240 houses in Weeley which indicates the difficulties they have in determining planning applications in the absence of the long delayed District Plan.
The proposal was made and accepted unanimously that the Business Strategy be refused and the officers’ alternative recommendations be accepted. These stipulate that it is necessary to have a pragmatic bespoke plan focussing more on grants and commercial loans rather than relying so heavily on enabling development. The funding is to be targeted at individual buildings identified in the S106 agreement specifying the cost of the work to be carried out. A revised strategy is required. If no agreement is reached in the future, a ‘dispute resolution procedure’ will be invoked as specified in the S106 agreement.
All documents are available via the Planning Committee agenda for 12 March. A recording of the Planning Committee meeting is also available and makes interesting listening:
To listen, click on the link below:
Select 12 March Agenda, Minutes’ and click on ‘Audio Recording’.