PLANS for a major housing development in Chepstow were approved yesterday (25th April) by county planners, despite concerns about the amount of affordable housing being provided.

Monmouthshire County Council’s (MCC) planning committee met to discuss what were originally plans for up to 600 houses at the former Mabey site in Chepstow.

The committee instead approved the development of up to 450 houses, with a condition that developers would have to come back before the committee if they intend to increase the site at a later date. The building of more than 450 houses would trigger the need for a substantial redevelopment of the A48 Station Road junction.

With congestion on the A48 deemed not to be effected by the addition of these homes, the major point of contention was the amount of affordable housing.

The independent District Valuation Services team highlighted serious viability issues in the scheme, listed as high abnormal costs connected to the redevelopment of the brownfield site. This meant that the scope for affordable housing was greatly reduced. The developers highlighted what is predicted to be £13 million in abnormal costs to develop the site, as well as £1 million in open spaces development.

In light of this, the developers initially offered a small proportion of low cost homes to be priced at 70 per cent of open market value. The cost of such homes would be well above the bracket for affordable housing, so instead 1.5 acres of development land within the site will be secured by the council at a significantly discounted price. It is thought the land will be in two ‘parcels,’ and will allow for 26 to 30 affordable houses to be built.

Although the proposals were praised for their scope and originality, those who spoke at the meeting were unified in their disappointment in relation to the amount of affordable housing,

Chepstow Town Councillor Dale Rooke spoke of his concern that “people in Chepstow will not be able to buy these properties” and the houses would be “bought up by people from out of the area.”

Cabinet member for community development and Chepstow Town Councillor Phil Hobson, echoed this disappointment. He said that after hearing that affordable housing will be only be five to six percent of houses in the development, “disappointment doesn’t cover it, I’m gutted.”

He continued that there is great need for affordable housing in the area, and that many people are trapped in full time work, and cannot get on the housing ladder.

However he highlighted the 1.5 acres of land as a “great opportunity” to do something “pretty innovative”.

County councillor Peter Farley summed up the feeling of the meeting, stating that there are many things in this to be commended with the development, but it is “a huge shame” there is so little affordable housing within this scheme, because “actually that’s what Chepstow needs”.

The development is planned to have a pedestrian link into Garden City from Hardwick Avenue and a path adjacent to the quarry linking into Thornwell. £1.8m will also be spent on heritage and green infrastructure in what has been dubbed a new Chepstow neighbourhood, including a substantial riverside boardwalk to link into the Wales Coast Path.