Culcheth Development Evoke Homes
An artist's impression of the finished development

Developer wins village housing battle but vows to avoid Warrington in future

Alice Cachia

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.

Your Comments

Read our comments policy here

Terrible how smaller companies are treated, in comparison to large volume house builders

By George Wimpey

British planning system is a joke! He should sue the Warrington council for the loses!

By Anonymous

Not surprised by this at all after a number of similar experiences with WBC’s planning committee over the years. The number of decisions they have had appealed, and lost costs on, is disproportionately high compared to other authorities in my experience, however there is apparently no feedback loop to tell them their approach is wrong?

By Lee

Small minded planning authorities affecting livelihoods. Meanwhile the big house builders go marching on.

The UK planning system works against SME’s like this.

By NC

PS good on the developer and PNW highlighting this through an article. I suspect there’s cases like this across the region and the press needs to start holding Committee members and officers to account.

By NC

I am a small housebuilder myself and experienced the exact same issue with Cheshire East. No intention of ever building there again either. Local politicians pandering to nimbys irrespective of the actual planning arguments and with absolutely no recourse

By Anon

Well done for sticking it out, Patrick. The NIMBYs of Culcheth are one thing, but the flip flopping of the LPA and its Members is something else. They need to be held accountable. Paragraph 187 of NPPF anyone?

By Al

This is a great article and why Place is the first stop for me and many in the working day. Though knowing Patrick it is a painful read. It is not volume-builder bashing – it is highlighting a growing trend in people’s need for choice beyond the volume builders and why this choice is consistently eroded.

In most, though not all cases, the delivery of rural or out-of City housing is seen as a ‘battle’ at the outset, whether with Officers, elected Members or local residents. SMEs like Patrick are seen as trying to ‘make a quick buck’ and get rich on a single project… for all those who have tried to build their own house or ever watched Grand Designs, that is oh so far from the truth.

So lines get drawn before pen hits paper – but why? The ability to build, own or rent a home is a fundamental right of a democratic society.

Find an appropriate site (which it was); appoint a great Architect (which they are); engage (which he did); refine (which he tried to do); proceed…. which I hope he does.

By Pete Swift

The site is suitable for 4 houses at most, not 9 he got or 15 he originally planned…….

By Dave Stanley

Subscribe to our newsletter