Narbeth community redevelopment secure despite increases in costs, planners hear

A COMMUNITY library being built as part of the redevelopment of the former community school in Narberth is safe despite a huge increase in costs, planners heard.

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Back in 2020, an application from local businessman Andrew Rees, on behalf of a local consortium for the transformation of the “eyesore” former Narberth CP school site was given the green light by councillors.

The proposal included the conversion and redevelopment for two retail units, and a new library for the town, along with eight three-bedroom houses and three one-bedroom apartments.

The library itself is subject to a 125-year lease at a peppercorn rate, listed as £20.

Earlier this year, an application to remove an affordable housing element of the scheme was submitted to planners due to increased costs on the site.

An authority commissioned District Valuer’s Office (DVO) report said the residual land value of the site, which it lists at -£202,759 is substantially below the benchmark land value, listed at £248,001, to make the scheme become viable.

“Evidence has been presented that clearly indicates that the development, that includes commercial space that would be of benefit to the town, a new library and much-needed housing provision, could not proceed if the required affordable housing provision were to be pursued.”

It was recommended to be approved at the April meeting of Pembrokeshire County council’s planning committee, but was deferred in the hope a compromise could be reached on the affordable housing issue.

The application came back before the June 27 meeting of the planning committee, again recommended for approval.

Members heard from joint developer Charles Salmon, who stressed the provision of the library was secure – the initial foundations having been laid – despite a major increase in costs of the development, including some £280,000 towards the library.

“We feel we have carried out our side of the bargain; we can’t pull out anyway, it’s been built,” he said.

He also said the developers were “sensitive to the second homes issue,” the open market housing on what was previously “an eyesore on the gateway to Narberth” being first offered for local over-55s.

Councillor Brian Hall moved the application – which has a long string of conditions including delivery of a scheme of affordable housing provision or a further development viability assessment after two years should no houses be occupied – be approved.

The recommendation was backed by nine votes to one, with one member abstaining.

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