Dover set to approve mixed-use development at former Pfizer headquarters, despite lack of contribution towards affordable housing and local schools

Out-Law News | 31 Oct 2014 | 4:49 pm | 1 min. read

Dover District Council has resolved to grant outline consent for the comprehensive mixed-use redevelopment of the site of the former European headquarters of pharmaceutical company Pfizer in Kent, despite a lack of contribution towards affordable housing and local schools under the plans.

Development company Discovery Park Limited (DPL) bought the 73 hectare site, situated one kilometre north of the town of Sandwich, after Pfizer vacated it in 2011. DPL renamed the site 'Discovery Park' and submitted an application to the Council in January seeking outline permission for its redevelopment into a mixed-use scheme including up to 500 homes.

DPL's plans propose the demolition of some of the remaining buildings on site, which include offices, laboratories and warehouses. The change of use of 159,000 square metres of retained business floorspace to general industrial, storage and distribution uses and the addition of a  further 120,000 sq m of new general industrial and storage floorspace has been proposed.

The masterplan for the site also includes up to 500 new homes, a new hotel with around 200 bedrooms, a multi-storey car park and around 1,000 sq m of retail space.

According to a planning officer's report prepared for a special meeting of the Council's planning committee last week, the site is allocated in the district's adopted local plan core strategy as being retained for employment allocation and is not allocated for housing development in the emerging land allocations local plan (LALP).

However, the report noted that the LALP's housing allocation "fell short [of the core strategy's housing targets] by some 1,400 dwellings and that the Council was unable to demonstrate a five year supply of deliverable housing land. The report concluded that the provision of 500 homes under the masterplan was acceptable given the local housing shortfall, constraints on housing delivery in Sandwich due to its heritage and flood risk, and the contribution on-site housing could make "towards ensuring that the concept of 'total place' is delivered in a satisfactory manner".

No contribution to local school provision has been proposed by DLP, due to concerns that any contribution could affect the viability of the scheme. The officer's report noted that the lack of provision was "regrettable" but that "when weighed against the importance of retaining and delivering jobs ... within this strategic site, it is considered that the considerable benefits outweigh this dis-benefit".

A viability appraisal submitted with DPL's planning application also indicated that no affordable housing provision on or off site, or any financial contribution toward affordable housing, would be possible. Although adopted Council policy required a minimum provision of 30% affordable housing, the officer's report noted that the 500 homes proposed for Discovery Park were "over and above [the housing provision] expected by the development plan, and affordable housing provision is already met by existing allocations".

Recommending the plans for approval, the planning officer said that "the importance of securing the long-term commercial future of this site, in this instance, outweighs the dis-benefit of this lack of affordable housing provision".