City centre offices-to-300 flats scheme recommended for refusal

    A developer’s plan to knock down an office block and build 300 flats in Central Milton Keynes has been recommended for refusal.

    The scheme to build a 14 storey building, and an overall development of 306 flats, in Silbury Boulevard, has been judged by planners to be short of affordable housing.

    That, alongside a lack of an agreement over payments for things like education and public transport mean that, in the judgement of council officers, it does not overcome the “harm” the scheme at Bowback House would cause.

    Developers Cannon Capital Developments could, if they wished, simply convert the offices into 107 homes. They already have permission to do that on the 0.59 hectare site.

    Planning officers are set to tell councillors, at a meeting on Thursday, that it would be less harmful to the area to have 107 flats in converted offices than 306 flats in blocks.

    There is also a policy in the city centre not to have buildings taller than eight storeys.

    But it can be broken if the benefits developments bring are judged to outweigh the harm. Another of the ‘harms’ is considered to be the loss of office space.

    In their report to the development control committee, planners conclude that the proposal represents a “high quality building”.

    But they add: “Without a sufficient provision of affordable housing and infrastructure contributions the benefits of the development do not outweigh the harm to local services and infrastructure, and does not provide sufficient social benefit of affordable housing provision.”

    The council had challenged the developers who had told them that the building would not be viable with affordable housing, before offering 22 flats. Council policies demand 95 flats be made available at 80 per cent of market rate.

    And the developers had offered £500,000 for infrastructure. But the planners also think that is not enough.

    Central MK ward councillor Paul Williams (Lab) objected to the plan and asked for the decision to be made by the committee of elected councillors.

    He said: “The absence of any affordable homes within this development is completely unacceptable.

    “I also have concerns about the level of section 106 contributions. We have seen a significant number of similar developments in CMK, with no S106 contributions.”

    He added that: “these developments are beginning to impact on social infrastructure in CMK and on neighbouring estates.”

    The development control committee meeting will be broadcast live on the council’s YouTube channel from 7pm on Thursday, July 2.

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