'Grenfell fire safety fears' could see Preston apartment block reduced in height

Concerns over fire safety look set to lead to a reduction in the number of affordable homes being built as part of a proposed estate in Preston.

Sunday, 8th August 2021, 1:49 pm
Updated Sunday, 8th August 2021, 2:06 pm

Preston City Council’s planning committee had been due to decide on the future of the former Perrys Motor Village site on Blackpool Road in Ribbleton.

Officers had recommended that councillors approve a bid to build a total of 73 dwellings – all in the affordable category – including a three-storey block of 30 apartments.

However, the committee heard that the firm behind the application, MCI Developments Limited, had made a last-minute request for the matter to be deferred – because of the difficulty in finding a registered housing provider (RP) prepared to operate a three-floor property.

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The cleared site of the former Perrys Motor Village on Blackpool Road, where 73 affordable properties were due to be built

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The original RP identified for the project is no longer able to meet the planned timescales for the project – and attempts to find a replacement had uncovered a reluctance to assume responsibility for a building of that size.

Hayley Knight, the agent for the application, said that concerns had been raised “in the wake of the Grenfell fire”.

“To allay these concerns the applicant is [proposing] changes to the scheme. It’s envisaged this is likely to require the removal of one of the levels of the apartment building.

“While the proposed changes will result in less of an impact on the wider area because there will be [fewer] dwellings, we fully appreciate that the planning department will need to re-consult on the application,” Ms. Knight added.

However, reserve committee member Salim Desai criticised what he said sounded like “excuses…to reduce the height of our buildings”.

“We expect a lot of our developments to become high rise and for [them] to increase in height. This is the first time I have come across [fire concerns] as an excuse to go from three to two storeys.

“We’re looking for an increased [amount] of social housing,” Cllr Desai added.

The original plan was for 24 one-bedroom and six two-bedroom apartments within the block. It is not yet clear how many of those will now be scrapped.

Ms. Knight said that MCI Developments was content that the three-storey building would have been safe “as we originally proposed it”

“Unfortunately, it will be the RP partners who will be taking on the buildings and…that’s what their design requirements are,” she said of the providers now in discussions over the development.

The committee agreed to defer its decision and the application is now set to be brought back before members in the coming months.

The housing mix on the remainder of the estate will remain unchanged, irrespective of any changes to the apartment block height – with 21 two-bedroom and 10 three-bedroom houses and a dozen one-bedroom maisonettes.

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