The director of small housebuilder Evoke Homes said a three-year battle with Warrington Council’s planning committee to secure consent for nine houses caused him to make most of his staff redundant and left his business struggling to stay afloat.
Planning permission was finally granted this month on the Culcheth development’s four and five-bedroom houses on a 19,000 sq ft garden plot acquired by Evoke for £1m in 2014.
Patrick Seed, managing director of Evoke and previously development director at Stockport-based investment group Assetz, told Place North West the Culcheth scheme might not start on site any time soon after he dismissed six of his eight staff to keep going.
Seed, who established the Holmes Chapel-based developer in 2011, explained: “This has affected my business massively. What should have been a quick development has led to me making six of my staff redundant and has affected the reputation of the scheme. We’re looking into whether it is actually viable to fulfil the development or just sell the site, as the delays have affected us that badly.”
He added: “Evoke Homes will not be developing additional sites in Warrington after this.”
A planning application to build 11 detached and semi-detached houses, designed by architect Ollier Smurthwaite, was submitted in 2014.
According to Seed, the planning officer on the case withdrew support two weeks before the application was due to go to committee. This forced the company to withdraw its application, Seed said, as it was unlikely to gain approval without the officer’s support.
Evoke submitted a revised application for nine detached houses, which did receive the support of planning officers. However, the application was refused by committee in December 2014. Seed claims members rejected the proposal because Evoke Homes had not provided enough information on how mature trees at the site would be protected.
The application went to appeal in April 2015. According to Seed, no further evidence about how the company would protect the trees, such as through GeoWeb tree root protection, was accepted in submission. The appeal was unsuccessful.
Seed submitted a third application in 2017. He said there was a delay in submitting the third application because he wanted to address all possible grounds for rejection as thoroughly as possible.
The application was rejected in February, with the committee stating there was an “unacceptable overdevelopment of space”, an aspect which had not been mentioned in response to earlier applications and appeals.
The refusal was taken to appeal in June 2017, and permission for the development was granted by Warrington Council this month.
Seed said: “There is a need for houses like this in the market because nowadays people want ‘Grand Designs’ without having to build the house themselves. We’ve actually designed the houses around the trees, which was always part of the plan, so I cannot understand how and why a development of just nine houses has taken three years for committees to approve. It’s astonishing.”
If he decides not to sell, Seed said Evoke could begin construction in early 2018, with an estimated completion date of 2020. House prices will start from £450,000.
Evoke Homes is also working on a contemporary renovation of barns in Middlewich, Cheshire.
Warrington Council has been approached for comment.