Old Banbury Magistrates Court to become 23 flats
Plans have been approved for the Warwick Road building despite concerns of no affordable housing or developer contributions
The old Banbury Magistrates Court building is about to be given a new lease of life after plans were approved to begin its conversion into 23 flats. However, some Councillors are unhappy as the scheme has been approved without the developer providing any affordable homes or the usual financial contribution to the area, known as Section 106 funds.
The conversion will leave the front of the building on the Warwick Road largely unchanged. To the rear the existing range of flat roof extensions will be demolished and replaced with two flat roof two storey extensions. A gable ended extension is also be constructed centrally to the rear of the main building.
The building most recently housed Banbury Magistrates Court, but prior to that had been Banbury Police Station, before being relocated to its new site next door. The 23 flats will comprise 14 two-bed and 9 one-bed units. Parking for 35 cars will be provided to the front and side of the building along with cycle parking.
The planning application was considered at last week’s Planning Committee meeting. It was reported that Banbury Town Council supported the principle of the development, but objected to the lack of any affordable housing provision.
It is standard practise that housing developments are expected to make 30% of their provision affordable housing. Normally financial contributions are made to support the local area (Section 106 funds). In this case the applicant argued that the proposed scheme was unable to sustain any level of contribution towards the adopted affordable housing policy target whilst remaining viable.
Cherwell’s planning officers engaged the services of Bidwells, an external consultant, who also concluded the scheme was not viable with affordable housing and financial contributions included.
Councillor Cassi Perry represents the Banbury Cross and Neithrop ward where the Magistrates Court is based. She expressed her concerns telling the meeting, “There’s a lot to be said that’s positive about this. I like what they’ve done with it. As for the [developer] saying that there can’t be any contributions and it’s not viable for any affordable housing, well how daft do they think we are?”
“It’s going to be high end luxury flats. That’s what they’re allowing to happen if there’s no affordable provision in there and that’s not what Banbury needs.”
Councillor Colin Clarke said, “I understand what Councillor Perry is saying but we have to rely on the Council’s viability consultants Bidwells. At the end of the day they are the professionals when it comes to viability.”
Councillor Barry Richards said, “I’m surprised and somewhat bemused that we have a property speculator / developer saying they want to embark on something they know is not financially viable. I don’t believe them.”
Councillor Mike Kerford-Byrnes had a different view saying, “The alternative is to not do it. If these people can’t make any money you can assume other builders won’t make any money. Nobody will do anything with it and then it will look really rough and it will be an eyesore in the middle of Banbury.”
The application was passed in the vote that followed with four councillors voting against.
Published: by Banbury FM Newsteam