Proposals for former gasworks site also include elements by BPN Architects

A planning inspector has given the go-ahead for the redevelopment of a former gasworks site in Coventry to provide 690 homes designed by Howells and BPN Architects.

The seven-block Abbotts Park scheme, which ranges in height from four to 21 storeys, was originally recommended for approval by city council planning officers. However elected members voted to refuse the proposals at a meeting in November last year.

Howells is lead designer for the scheme, which was submitted as a so-called “hybrid” application seeking detailed consent for two plots totalling 212 homes and outline consent for a further 478 homes in two additional plots. BPN is architect and consultant for one of the initial plots.

A decision letter issued to CDP Developments said the authority considered the proposals to be “over-intensive” development of the 2.26ha site, which is adjacent to Coventry city centre’s ring road, and that high-rise buildings were out of keeping with the character of the local area.

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Howells and BPN Architects’ Abbotts Park proposals for Coventry

Councillors also said the scheme’s housing mix was unsatisfactory and criticised a lack of detail on affordable housing numbers. A report to their meeting had indicated the project team could secure a West Midlands Combined Authority grant to deliver 20% affordable housing. Coventry’s target figure is 25%.

In his decision letter, planning inspector Paul Griffiths said the two plots for which detailed consent had been sought were “excellent pieces of design” that would “provide a significant uplift to both the character and the appearance of the area”.

Griffiths said that while the two other plots featured taller buildings their presence was not problematic.

“The height of the various buildings is in no way excessive, given that they mark an important point where the ring road is crossed, and adding to the existing Belgrade Plaza cluster,” he said. “The significance of affected heritage assets would be enhanced. On that overall basis, the proposals optimise, rather than maximise the site, in design terms.”

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The outline elements are to the left of the image.

The inspector said he had no problem with the development team’s proposed housing mix for the scheme’s first two plots. He said that detailed plans for the two final plots could address the potential for larger three- and four-bedroomed homes, but that it would not “cause difficulties” if the edge-of-city-centre scheme were to feature more one- and two-bedroomed homes.

On affordable housing, Griffiths said that it was common ground between the city council and CDP that the scheme would not be viable if it had to provide 25% affordable housing, so the scheme was not at odds with local policies.

“On a major scheme of this type, involving brownfield, contaminated land, it is unrealistic to suggest that a developer should accept something less than a normal target return/profit in order to provide affordable housing, or indeed any other contributions,” the inspector said.

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Concept design for the tallest element of Howells’ Abbotts Park proposals for Coventry

“Given the obvious risks involved, such a requirement is likely to prevent the scheme coming forward which, given the prevailing nature of the site, and the council’s housing land supply situation, is in no-one’s interest.”

Allowing the appeal, Griffiths said it was “plain” that the proposals were compatible with Coventry City Council’s development plan and that it was “obvious” that there were no adverse impacts that could outweigh the benefits on offer.

The inspector also made a partial award of costs against Coventry City Council after finding “unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary or wasted expense” on the part of the authority. The figure was not disclosed.