CALA Saga ends – Barton Farm finally Granted Consent #NPPF

The site that generated the CALA homes cause celebre Barton Farm at Winchester has now finally been granted planning consent.

Estates Gazette

Housebuilder Cala Group has been given the go-ahead for its long-running proposals to build 2,000 homes at Barton Farm in Winchester, Hampshire.

The developer has been promoting the site for 14 years and this week was finally give the green light by communities minister Eric Pickles.

Some 800 of the homes will be affordable.

Robert Millar, Cala’s group land director, said: “Coming so soon on the back of stimulus packages designed to support the construction industry, we feel this decision provides a major boost to the entire housebuilding sector and reaffirms the coalition’s stance on the role the housebuilding industry can play in supporting a wider economic recovery.”

In its recent year-end results, Cala report a massive increase in pretax profits, before exceptionals, to £11.4m, up from just £2m a year earlier.

The group has also reduced its debt by almost £18m to £98.4m.

Construction News

Cala Group has received planning approval for its 2,000-home development at Barton Farm, ending a row that has gone on for several years.

 Development can now begin on the site, which includes 800 affordable homes and associated infrastructure and community facilities.

The decision by communities secretary Eric Pickles marks a victory for the firm, after the Department of Communities and Local Government turned down the application last September on the grounds that it undermined the local authority’s core strategy development.

Cala then contested the decision through a judicial review, which the firm won in February. CEO Alan Brown last month told CN a refusal on the Winchester development “wouldn’t make sense” after the government’s housing rhetoric, and that he was optimistic about the 230-acre site.

Winchester & Chandler’s Ford MP Steve Brine, who has long opposed the development, called the decision “bitterly disappointing”.

“Cala homes have very deep pockets”, he said, “and have relentlessly pursued Winchester over many years until they got what they wanted”.

“Assuming Barton Farm is developed, 2,000 houses on this site will in my opinion ultimately make the city a less comfortable place to live.

“We will get used to it, and not too many years from now we’ll no doubt struggle to remember how it looked before, but a special piece of the landscape setting of Winchester will be gone forever.”

Cala group land director Robert Millar said he welcomed the decision, and now looks forward “to continuing to work positively with the Council and local community to deliver a high-quality development”.

He added: “Coming so soon on the back of stimulus packages designed to support the construction industry, we feel this decision provides a major boost to the entire housebuilding sector and reaffirms the Coalition’s stance on the role the housebuilding industry can play in supporting a wider economic recovery.

“Local people will benefit greatly from this decision. It will be a major contributor to stimulating the local economy and creating long term jobs. Furthermore, it will make a significant contribution to the chronic shortage of affordable housing enabling key workers and other local people to live in their own City.”..

Cala currently holds a £3bn landbank of 9,600 plots, and completed 875 homes in 2011 – a rise of 35 per cent on the year before.

West Coast Mainline – Does the DfT not know how to apply a Discount Rate?

The Transport Secretary has stated on radio 4 that the cancelled West Coast Main Line Franchise figures did not take into account inflation – something only vaguely hinted at in the press release.

I find this unbelievable – the first thing you do with any investment of PPP is discount to net present value?

Was it that certain elements of risk were not discounted – such as passenger variations or interest rate change risk?

Was there not a proper risk assessment model?  Was it a simple spreadsheet error that was not picked up and checked?

On major projects such as this are not the figures ran over by the chief account and chief economist at each department?  If not perhaps the real blame lies not in the staff suspended by at permanent secretary level for poor quality assurance systems?