A ROW erupted over the provision of affordable homes at the proposed 120 home new estate at the old Essex County Hospital site.

Essex County Council’s new housing firm Essex Housing has applied to Colchester Council for permission to create the new estate at the Lexden Road site, preserving and restoring its historic buildings in the process.

County Hall originally said the estate would feature no affordable homes due to viability issues, however revised this number to four.

Colchester Council instructed chartered surveyor Dr Andrew Golland to compile a viability report on the scheme which found the development could provide 30 per cent affordable housing and remain profitable.

However, property consultancy firm BNP Paribas Real Estate, commissioned by Essex Housing, hit back at the claims saying his report relied on “erroneous inputs and misconceptions”.

A spokesman for Colchester Council said initial discussions had led to the addition of four affordable homes to the plans.

He added: “Essex Housing has also agreed a further review would then take place if, subsequently, the units were to sell for more than their current estimate.

“Should this arise, the council would be able to claw back some of the additional value of the properties to help deliver affordable housing elsewhere in the borough.

“Any decision concerning the appropriate level of affordable homes the scheme can support would need to be decided ultimately by members of the council’s planning committee.”

Maldon and Burnham Standard: How the new estate could look How the new estate could look

A spokesman for Essex Housing said it had provided Colchester Council with evidence of the challenges of the site.

He added: “This is due to the constraints and understandable extent of conservation required, as well as the potential rich archaeological value of the site.

“Essex Housing takes the priority of delivering affordable housing very seriously and over 40 per cent of the units in our current programme of work are affordable or specialist housing units.

“Despite the challenges of the hospital site, we have worked hard to ensure there will be affordable homes on site on day one, and have agreed to a review mechanism which will see an additional payment for affordable housing made to the council should sale receipts be higher than anticipated.

“This could set a precedent for all future developments in the borough, to help ensure contributions to affordable housing are based on actual sales rather than only assumptions made at planning about market conditions several years in the future.

“Furthermore, our plans will give the former hospital site a new lease of life and stop it from falling into decay, through the conservation and restoration of key historic buildings, high-quality new build elements and the revival of historic green open space at the front of the main hospital building.”