A REQUIREMENT for a developer to deliver affordable housing as part of the transformation of a former Flintshire hospital has been removed, despite councillors expressing frustration.

Proposals to turn the infirmary wing of the old Lluesty Hospital in Holywell into 14 apartments were approved in 2019, as well as for 15 houses to be created on the surrounding land.

Permission was later withdrawn in April this year as the site’s new owners did not enter a section 106 agreement with Flintshire Council within the relevant timescales.

BAK Building Ltd argued that gifting four properties to the local authority for affordable housing would make the scheme unviable, along with paying almost £27,000 towards two play areas in the town.

A senior officer recommended that planning committee members should agree to relax the conditions ahead of a virtual meeting yesterday (Wednesday 28 October) in light of the difficult economic climate caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, some community leaders raised concerns that the company was using the crisis as an excuse to get out of the requirements.

Cllr Bernie Attridge, former cabinet member for housing, said: “We’ve got a major shortage of affordable housing in Flintshire and every single council member should be doing all we can to get as much affordable housing as possible.

“We’ve got no information before us apart from them saying they can’t afford it.

“I appreciate the issue of conversion and as the local member says, we need to get it developed.

“But all I’m worried about is we’re going to get more and more of these.”

A viability report submitted on behalf of the developers estimates that the scheme will generate a profit of just over half a million pounds without any requirements being tagged on.

It compares to a loss of around £60,000 if they were kept in place.

Despite the report being assessed by a district valuer, Buckley Bistre councillor Richard Jones also voiced anger at the move.

He said: “What’s the point of us putting down 30 per cent affordable housing or more when viability suddenly says we can’t do that.

“This is not the first case we’ve had. We’ve had at least four or five of these where we’ve lost the affordable housing.

“It’s not good enough. I’m not happy with this and I don’t think it’s right.

“I think it’s being used an excuse because it costs a bit more to put affordable housing in. We’re being bluffed.”

The site was originally home to a workhouse in the late 1830s before it was turned into a hospital in 1948.

The Grade II listed property closed its doors in 2008 and has remained empty ever since.

Local councillor Paul Johnson gave his support to the plans, despite reservations over the impact on road safety on Old Chester Road.

He said: “The site has been empty since 2008. It’s right on the Holywell gateway and right next door to a development that is looking fantastic at the old workhouse site.

“The site needs action taken desperately to regenerate this end of Holywell.

“I’m very disappointed about the social housing and the 106 but I understand the position the council is in.”

It was also backed by the authority’s cabinet member for planning and public protection.

Cllr Chris Bithell said: “With the Covid-19 epidemic, the difficulties that the building industry is facing means it’s unlikely this development would go ahead.

“It’s not just a question of the developer playing on our heartstrings.

“The case made by them has been backed up by the independent district valuer and we have to accept his advice on this issue.”

The committee voted 14 votes to two in favour of removing the stipulations with one abstention.