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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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Hopes for homes on old Carlisle school site fade

Hopes that affordable homes might be built on the site of a former school are fading.

Morton Park site photo
The former Morton Park Primary School in Carlisle

Housing association Riverside wants to put 53 houses and bungalows where Morton Park Primary School used to stand in Carlisle. The school closed in 2006 and has since been demolished.

Riverside won planning permission in principle 18 months ago.

But failure to make progress with the scheme means that city councillors could withdraw planning consent on Friday.

The development has stalled because Riverside cannot agree a price to buy the 4.3-acre plot.

It values the land at £250,000 while the owner, Cumbria County Council, has asked for £675,000 – a figure the council says is less than the market value.

A spokeswoman for Riverside said: “Riverside and Cumbria County Council continue to work together with the aspirations of delivering affordable housing on the Morton Park Primary School site.

“As a result of the current economic climate it has not been currently possible for Riverside to enter into a contract to acquire the site.

We will continue to monitor the situation.”

City councillors agreed to grant permission in 2011 as long as Riverside signed a binding agreement to pay £45,300 towards green spaces and guarantee that at least 30 per cent of the homes would be ‘affordable’.

Riverside’s intention was that all 53 would be affordable – 36 for rent and 17 through shared ownership.

But the failure to agree a purchase price means it has not signed the council’s legal agreement.

Planning officers say they have waited long enough and that consent should be withdrawn.

Their report to councillors says: “While the scheme would develop a prominent and vacant site.....the lack of affordable housing and open-space contribution mean it is contrary to the relevant policies.”

Refusing the planning application would allow Riverside to table a fresh proposal, perhaps asking the city council to waive the £45,300 green-space contribution.

However, Riverside says it has “no immediate plans” to table a new application.

The impasse has exasperated Elaine Stevenson, one of the city councillors for Morton.

She said: “I would love to see the site developed. We need more affordable housing, especially for rent.

“People can’t afford mortgages and first-time buyers often can’t get the money together for a deposit.”

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