Redevelopment of huge building in Chesterfield may not go ahead

The future of a high-profile development planned for a prominent building in Chesterfield town centre is now in doubt, the Derbyshire Times has learned.

Monday, 18th October 2021, 6:27 am

In the summer, property development firm Homes by Holmes was given conditional planning permission to convert the old council offices on Saltergate into up to 75 one, two and three-bedroom apartments.

James Holmes, owner of Homes by Holmes, has this week told the Derbyshire Times all work on the project has now been stopped as a result of a £250,000 Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charge imposed by Chesterfield Borough Council.

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In recent weeks, Homes by Holmes has taken steps to make the building on Saltergate, Chesterfield, look more attractive, including by installing colourful banners in the windows to celebrate the Chesterfield in Bloom competition.

He has urged the authority to scrap the charge – or the multi-million pound scheme won’t go ahead.

The borough council told the Derbyshire Times it has ‘no power’ to waive the payment.

The CIL is a charge which local authorities can impose on developments to fund infrastructure in their area.

Mr Homes said: “Chesterfield Borough Council is blocking the development after imposing a CIL charge of £250,000, which for us deems the project economically unviable.

“All work on the development has now stopped. We are currently working on other sites, including Mansfield and Barnsley, where the councils are working with us to progress schemes in their towns.

“I'm very disappointed. My message to the borough council is simple – scrap this charge, or the development won't go ahead. The ball is now in their court.”

A borough council spokesperson said: “The CIL is paid by all housing developers in Chesterfield. It funds the extra services and infrastructure which are needed when new homes – and therefore more people – are created in an area. It pays for things like school places, open spaces and transport or highway measures, as well as community projects to help some of our most vulnerable residents.

“Legally we have no discretion over whether to apply it to developments or not, and this particular development does not qualify for any exemption – so the council has no power to waive the payment.

“The need to factor this payment into any planned development is shared with developers at an early stage. We have been working proactively with Mr Holmes to find ways to support the redevelopment of this key town centre site, but we can only operate within the law around this issue.

“We do all we can to help bring positive new developments and investment forward in Chesterfield – but we must also do so responsibly and, through the CIL, make sure that developers take account of and contribute to addressing the impact of their development on the existing community.”

In response, Mr Holmes said the CIL charge ‘was not brought to our attention prior to the planning permission’.

He added: “If the CIL is so required to fund all these services then why don’t all councils have a CIL requirement? None of our other developments have required this and the need we are addressing is housing shortages.

“Families require school places regardless of where they live and some of the most vulnerable people are those without homes. This scheme requires no highway alterations and will bring much-needed footfall into the town centre, in an environmentally-friendly way by repurposing the existing building as opposed to building new.”

The old council offices have lain derelict since 2015.

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