Two-year wait ends as Leyland test track approved

South Ribble Council has finally given the green light to the redevelopment of Leyland test track with 950 homes and more than 300,000 sq ft of employment space now set to be built on the brownfield site.

The hybrid application for the site, which was approved by the council last night, is one of the region’s largest projects, and is vital to the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal.

This is split between full permission for the first phase of 197 homes, and an outline permission including 653 to 753 homes, office space of up to 53,800 sq t, up to 161,400 sq ft of B2 space and 86,000 sq ft of B8 space; along with 30,000 sq ft of local centre facilities including a primary school and health centre. Turley is the planning consultant

Taken as a whole, it offers the South Ribble the opportunity to make up a large part of its housing targets, while the scheme can potentially bring in Community Infrastructure Levy payment of £7.3m, a £1.4m New Homes bonus and £500,000 in non-domestic rates.

The approval follows nearly two years on discussion over the planning application.

Developer Property Capital received approval from South Ribble for the 120-acre brownfield site’s masterplan in summer 2017 following a public consultation that took in the views of 6,500 local people and businesses; this was followed by a hybrid application in December that year.

However, the developer was made to wait for consent, with an initial planning application recommended for refusal in March this year.

This initial phase was for the first 197 homes, but was recommended for refusal by planning officers due to non-compliance with an affordability threshold of 30%, and spatial standards, with 12 plots not meeting separation distances set out in the borough’s 2013 supplementary planning document. This led to a decision being deferred.

At yesterday’s planning committee, members were given a “minded to approve” recommendation.

Planning officers said: “The Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal was the first of 20 second wave City Deals to be agreed and was signed in September 2013. New investment of £434 million will expand transport infrastructure in Preston and South Ribble at an unprecedented rate, driving the creation of some 20,000 new jobs and generating the development of more than 17,000 new homes over the next 10 years.

“The test track is an important site and provides the opportunity to deliver a flagship scheme supporting the delivery of strong place making for all sections of society

“The scheme would provide the opportunity to redevelop a brown field site, allocated primarily for residential within the South Ribble Local Plan and address the council’s requirement to implement the Government’s Housing targets.”

Ahead of the latest approval, to address officers’ concerns, Property Capital, which is advised by Cushman & Wakefield on viability, has upped its affordable housing provision across the site to 30%, split half-and-half between affordable rent and shared ownership.

Attempts were also to placate the council on separations distances between the housing plots, with officers now supportive of the revised layout for the homes across the site, which are to be delivered by Barratt Homes.

The disagreement around affordable homes largely stemmed from land values, viability, and purchase price; Consultant Keppie Masssie has advised the council on the matter, concluding that a payment of £18.09m to be paid in four instalments over five years would represent fair value for the site, in broad agreement with the applicant.

However , the applicant, factoring in an additional 6.5% discount for deferred payments, saw the residual value as £20.7m, equivalent to £286,000 per developable acre for the residential land and £171,650 sq ft for the commercial land. A third-party advisor, David Newham, agreed broadly with Keppie Massie’s view that £18.09m represents fair value.

This issue was resolved with the developer’s proposals for 30% affordable homes being agreed following “extensive” discussions with the council, allowing the proposal to proceed.

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