Wyre Forest District Council’s planning committee last night approved the outline application, lodged by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), for the Lea Castle Hospital site near Kidderminster, in line with planning officers’ recommendation.
As well as up to 600 dwellings, the outline application includes up to 3,350 square metres of class B1 employment uses, 150 square metres of local retail and community uses, public open space, ecological mitigation, drainage works, infrastructure and ancillary works.
The 49-hectare former psychiatric hospital site, which currently comprises a complex of rundown and vacant buildings scheduled for demolition, is identified as a strategic site in Wyre Forest Council’s site allocations and policies local plan, adopted in 2013.
It is also included as a core site in the council's emerging local plan, which went out for consultation last summer.
An officers’ report to the committee noted that the Lea Castle site and the current development proposal can provide a "significant proportion" of the area’s future housing needs "on an allocated site which has been identified in the correct plan-making manner".
Officers advised that the scheme represents sustainable development on previously developed land in the green belt.
"Although allocated for employment uses within the development plan, convincing arguments have been advanced that allow the site to be redeveloped for the benefit of the visual amenities of the area and providing housing within the parish," they concluded.
The council’s adopted core strategy seeks 30 per cent on-site affordable housing for major residential developments in the area. However, the HCA maintains that viability considerations only allow 15 per cent affordable provision, with a potential uplift to 20 per cent subject to grant support. Permission was granted subject to conclusion of a section 106 agreement ensuring this level of affordable provision.
Despite the affordable housing shortfall, members were advised that the overall package of section 106 contributions "is significant and will provide contributions towards off-site infrastructure as well as deliver and maintain significant on-site benefits and enhancements".
The report added: "The development proposes to make the most of the existing significant areas of on-site woodland and open space, with significant levels of informal and formal publicly accessible open space and play provision.
"On-site enhancements and future management of biodiversity and ecology are proposed, and can be secured via planning conditions, improving the green infrastructure network to the benefit of both the site and the surroundings".
An HCA spokesperson said: "This approval means the HCA’s vision to see this derelict site brought back into use to provide good quality and well-designed new homes can continue to move forward.
"The next stage is to demolish the redundant buildings on the site. Subject to a demolition contractor being appointed, this work is due to commence in January."