Chilton Woods In Trouble
Blogs are the individual views of Sudbury Vision members and do not necessarily represent the views of the group or group members.
It is a curious fact that while Suffolk County Council campaigns for a Western Bypass and accompanying massive housing estates at the Ballingdon end of Sudbury, its flagship Chilton Woods project is in deep trouble. Chilton Woods was supposed to provide hundreds of houses and acres of commercial development on farmland near Tesco on the eastern side of Sudbury. Suffolk County Council boasted that,
“The development will be of a standard that it will be used as a good practice example across the county."
In fact, years later, not a warehouse has been erected nor a brick laid. The reason: Suffolk has discovered that its sums don’t add up. This discovery did not come free for local taxpayers. The Council had to commission the top accountancy firm Deloitte to carry out an expensive Financial Viability Assessment which was completed earlier this year. A copy of this document, marked Confidential, has now found its way into our hands.
The Deloitte report states baldly that the project has been delayed by “financial challenges” and makes clear that the Council’s target of 35% affordable housing cannot be met:
"Our analysis shows that the proposed scheme cannot support the policy target level of 35% affordable housing. This is for a number of reasons:
1. The high infrastructure costs required in the early phases negatively impacts on scheme viability;
2. The relatively weak market demand and low house prices makes the residential element alone unviable based on the affordable housing policy targets. It is potentially viable with less than 35% affordable but there is no possibility of cross subsidy to the employment element; and,
3. The proportion of non-developable land within the master plan and local plan allocation is high at Chilton Woods"
It is clear from the report that Suffolk County Council made a glaring error in its assessment of how easy it would be to develope the site and overestimated both the willingness of commercial companies to take space as well as appetite in the housing market. Deloitte’s recommendation: drop the affordable housing element entirely from the first phase of housing development, but this may not be acceptable in planning policy terms.
It seems that Chilton Woods is well on the way to becoming not a shining example but a white elephant of the planning world.
There’s a telling and relevant American saying: when you’re in a hole, stop digging. Our advice to Suffolk County Council and their ally, James Cartlidge MP, is: stop coming up with foolish and environmentally ruinous plans for a thousand acres of housing around a bypass in the middle of Gainsborough Country and try to work out how to salvage something from the collapsing ambitions of Chilton Woods.