Andium Homes, the company behind the scheme, say the project may have become commercially unviable and – if they cannot find a solution – they may have to walk away. They say that since the refusal they have received multiple expressions of interest from firms looking into buying the site.
Carl Mavity, a spokesperson for Andium, said that the current plans would offer significant public benefits – including 150 public parking spaces – and there should have been a compromise.
Explaining the history of the project, he said: ‘It was originally a Dandara site and they had an application approved for 253 homes. We acquired the site [for £10 million] in 2016 and decided that we wanted to do something slightly different – the main difference being reducing the number of apartments to 122 and extending the Millennium Town Park.
‘The matter ended up going to the States Assembly in 2017 and they agreed that we should develop the site in a slightly different way and put a couple of caveats on it – one of which was that as part of the park extension we should also seek to provide 150 to 200 public underground parking spaces – all at no cost to the taxpayer.’
He added: ‘We went away to come up with something that was viable and came up with a single level underground car park and that was approved. But it soon became apparent that there was unknown and unquantified archaeology under the site, a town brook, as well as a main sewer. That would have been impacted by the design of the car park. When we started looking at the costs of working around that it became unviable.’
Mr Mavity said that Andium then went back to the drawing board and developed new plans to split the underground car park over two levels to avoid the brook and the sewer.
But although the application had been recommended for approval by planning officers, the Planning Committee – made up of States Members – decided to refuse it due to what Mr Mavity said was ‘unexplored archaeology’. This includes what is assumed to be a neolithic cist, stone avenue and burial site. It is a grade-one site of archaeological importance – the same listing as Mont Orgueil Castle and La Cotte.
Planning officers had approved the scheme on the basis that the public-realm improvements outweighed the risk of potential damage to the historic remains.
‘We are now in position where we are going to have to pause what we were planning to do at the gasworks site,’ Mr Mavity said. ‘We are going to have to go away and reflect on the refusal and potentially come back with another application which – in order to make it viable – might have to have more homes on it and in turn potentially less parking or a smaller extension to the park.
‘Selling the site on is an option. There is a planning application there to put 253 homes there but that would probably be something for a commercial developer. We [Andium] are not like that. We are not for profit and all we are trying to ensure is that the development is viable insofar as it generates enough revenue to pay for itself.’
Mr Mavity said that the project’s approval would have also led to the establishment of a safe pedestrian link between schools on Wellington Hill, through the Millennium Town Park, Le Masurier’s Bath Street site and into Halkett Place.
‘We fully understand that they have planning policies to apply and they are following the Island Plan. We are not trying to make light of them or denigrate them – these things are truly important,’ he said.
‘But sometimes to bring around meaningful change and regeneration, particularly in brownfield areas where there has been development before and you might have constraints like listed buildings, sometimes there will be times where something has to give. Sometimes you do need to make compromises.’
The Planning Committee were contacted for comment but a member said they would be unable to comment until the refusal was officially confirmed during the next meeting.