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Ebbsfleet Valley project dispute sees construction grind to a halt

PUBLISHED: 12:52 16 December 2010 | UPDATED: 14:24 16 December 2010

Springhead Park

Springhead Park

Archant

New and existing residents at a multi-million pound housing project could be made to wait for years for a range of community facilities after negotiations between the council and construction firm ground to a halt.

Building work could halt at the huge Springhead Park Ebbsfleet Valley project after Gravesham Borough Council’s regulatory board deferred an application to put back pre-set timings for the construction of facilities including pre-schools, primary schools, a church and community centre, a health centre and sports hall.

Land Securities, which is developing the site alongside building company Countryside Properties, is approaching building 200 homes, the trigger for completion of these community facilities, but claims they are not viable and will halt construction if the limit is not moved.

At a planning meeting last Wednesday Peter Mail, a development manager at Land Securities, said: “We want to keep developing. Approval of our application will enable development to continue, refusal will stop it, deferral helps no-one.”

170 homes have been built and occupied since construction began in 2007.

Residents in the complex, which will include 10,000 homes, create up to 20,000 office jobs and have almost 400 acres of parkland and leisure area, were dismayed to hear of the problems.

Susan Collins, 36 and her partner Damian Fawsett, 36, moved in 18 months ago.

“We were hoping a school would be on the cards,” said Ms Collins. “We have four children and it’s not just the schools, the sports hall and community hall would be areas they could use.”

“It is one of the reasons people chose to come here so they really should keep their promises,” added Mr Fawsett. “We have two autistic children who would really benefit from a community centre. We are still waiting and I guess we will be waiting a while.”

Land Securities originally planned to provide three pre-schools, built after 200, 800 and 1400 homes but now states only one will be needed, linked with a primary after 800 homes.

The first primary school was due after 200, but Land Securities is asking for a delay to 500 with a second due after 800 and third after 1400.

Plans for a temporary health centre after 200 would be scrapped and a permanent centre built by 450, while the community centre and church would come after 500 homes rather than 200 and the sports hall be built after 500, but only if squash and badminton facilities are removed.

A spokesman explained the cost of running empty buildings built prematurely before needed was to great to sustain

She said: “We simply cannot force the private or public sector service providers to take facilities so early in development when they will not be viable to run.”

Resident Harrison Ibidunni, 50, was unimpressed with the new plan. Times are tough, we know that, but they should do what they promised,” he said.

Councillor Jane Cribbon attacked the proposal stating resident across Northfleet would be affected.

“You make your assumptions on needs and viability but what about the wider community. There are thousands in Northfleet who could use a sports hall or primary school

Councillor John Burden added: “There seems to be a constant watering down of what is promised. You say there is no public funding to run these building but millions in public funding for infrastructure in roads and rail have been pumped into this area to make this happen.

The council deferred on each of these to allow council officers to conduct further discussions with Land Securities and consultees including Kent County Council.

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