Agenda item

Development options for the former Holme Lacy School

To provide General Scrutiny Committee with an update in regards to the operation and future development of the former Holme Lacy Primary School.



The Committee received a report from the Cabinet Member for Housing, Regulatory Services and Community Safety which provided an update in regards to the operation and future development of the former Holme Lacy Primary School.


During discussion the following principal points were noted:


·        The definition of affordable housing as described in annex 2 of the National Policy Planning Framework was housing for sale or rent for those whose needs were not met by the market (including housing that provided a subsidised route to home ownership and/or was for essential local workers.) Social housing was housing delivered by the Local Authority or other organisations such as Connexus in Herefordshire which charged a social rent for those on low incomes. Rents were set by a national rent officer for the Herefordshire area.

·        Within the planning process it could be specified that houses would only be available for those living and working locally.

·        Paragraph 9 of the report spoke of pre-application planning advice but the distinction was made that this was for the previous application done by Keepmoat. The Council, as landowner, had not yet sought pre-application advice as the proposal was in its very earliest stages and was not yet at the planning process stage.

·        All aspects of social amenities, including the capacity of GP services, would be rigorously considered by planning officers and the Planning Committee and put out to public consultation during the planning process stage.

·        The lack of amenities for new developments was something that always commented on at Planning Committee and yet virtually all applications were passed, as broad planning rules were set by national government rather than locally in Herefordshire.

·        The Council’s commitment to providing affordable housing of the highest standard was commendable but the issue of associated infrastructure needed to be addressed.

·        Comments from the Committee on how the assessment of current community infrastructure could be improved, and sustainable communities for the future could be delivered, would be welcomed.

·        The Heads of Terms information that accompanied planning applications going to committee clearly indicated the contributions that would be made to local transport, open green space, the library service, schools, the Wye Valley Trust Hospital and the CCG (for improvements to GP services). These outside bodies then had a responsibility to bring forward the services needed.

·        A point of clarification was made around the assumption that affordable housing was just for those on a low income. High earners often could not save for a deposit because of the high levels of rent paid and were therefore also in need of affordable housing.

·        Councillor Tyler, the Cabinet Member for Housing, took on board the comments made by Councillor Summers and committed the project management board to consult more with ward members.

·        At the Cabinet meeting held on 16 September 2021 new higher level environmental building design standards were approved.

·        As part of the drive to reach the Council’s zero carbon emission target by 2030, the Council was looking at more efficient heating sources such as solar and ground source and the ways in which houses could be better constructed.

·        Open market sale was an option for the Holme Lacy site but as the proposal was at its very early stages, and until more detailed design work and financial viability assessments had been done, there was not an answer as to whether or not this option would proceed.

·        Although the Council would have more control if it developed the land itself, any site sold on the open market would be sold with outline planning permission and therefore appropriate conditions could be attached to this. All Members would have the ability to challenge developments through the Planning process.


The Committee RECOMMENDED that:


1.     The Executive be instructed to look at the local operation of the planning process and consider whether it takes sufficient account of the impact of developments on the wider infrastructure and particularly on amenities such as the availability of GP and dental surgeries and the provision of public transport.

2.     All relevant and required social amenities for the entire local population e.g. doctors surgeries, should be considered as part of the viability and planning process for HC ‘pipeline’ or other council owned land being considered for development.

3.     The Executive should look to the way Heads of Terms negotiations are conducted with developers to ensure that any S106 contributions agreed take full account of local needs and wishes and are not just driven by what the developer may be willing to contribute.

4.     The project management team build in clear points in time where the ward member(s) are notified, and where appropriate, can be involved in ongoing considerations around site design and options going forward

5.     The Holme Lacy School Building, as part of the design considerations, be considered as a community asset to be used by and to benefit the local community.

6.     The Executive provide further information to the scrutiny committee on the assessment of the viability of the land for selling on the open market and private development.


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