Housebuilders accused of ‘taking advantage’ of coronavirus crisis by moving residents in ahead of schedule
A housebuilding company has been accused of “taking advantage” of the coronavirus crisis by moving residents into a new development ahead of schedule.
Anwyl Homes is one of two companies currently in the process of creating 362 homes at Home Farm in Llay.
The scheme was controversially approved on appeal in 2017 in the face of widespread opposition in the village.
A planning condition was previously imposed which prevents anyone from living in the properties until the developers have carried out improvements to the local road network.
However, Mayor of Wrexham Rob Walsh said people had been seen moving into Anwyl’s part of the site on Gresford Road over the weekend despite no upgrades taking place.
He has now hit out at the firm and accused it of using the pandemic as cover for breaching the condition.
The Llay councillor also questioned whether it contradicts advice on house moves issued by the UK government to curb the spread of COVID-19, although the company insists it has followed the guidance.
In an e-mail sent to senior figures at Wrexham Council, Cllr Walsh said: “It would appear that at least four houses have been occupied on the site, though it might be more as it is difficult to make an exact prediction with the social distancing.
“However, I can safely say that people are definitely living on site and Anwyl have breached the relevant planning condition.
“That is why I think very strong enforcement action is needed. Anwyl have taken advantage of a national crisis for their own gain, something that is morally wrong.
“If we as a council don’t deal with this now, they could very well move in more people and that will set a worrying chain of events.
“As previously stated, the Home Farm development is probably one of the most controversial developments Wrexham has ever had to deal with and despite of the concerns of COVID-19, local residents are furious at how this been allowed to happen.”
Both Anwyl and Bellway Homes began work on the site last year and some of the new properties have now been completed.
The two companies previously applied to change the condition requiring upgrades to a crossroads near the Crown pub and the Straight Mile to allow 60 houses to be occupied before the traffic scheme was delivered.
However, planning officers have yet to make a decision on the variation and it has attracted concerns about road safety from the local authority’s highways department.
Meanwhile, the Westminster government has advised buyers to delay moving into new homes where possible while coronavirus restrictions are in place, but said they could continue if the property is empty.
A spokesperson for Anwyl said the company had decided to move residents in early to prevent any uncertainty about their living circumstances.
In a statement, they said: “We can confirm that last week, we moved some purchasers into our development at Maes y Rhedyn, Llay.
“In line with the government’s guidance where the property is vacant, we are allowed to continue with the transaction and move residents into their new homes.
“There has been a very limited number of occupations and the safety and well-being of our residents and staff is paramount.
“The process followed a stringent procedure in accordance with the guidance issued by government.”
The spokesperson said the firm had worked “tirelessly” with officers to discharge the planning condition.
However, they added the decision to move people in had been taken as it had not been able to do so.
They said: “In light of the current health crisis, we had a tough decision to make and we believe this to be the correct one, allowing individuals and their families to move into their new homes.
“During this unprecedented time, there is a lot of uncertainty and we wanted to ensure our purchasers did not have to worry about the uncertainty of their home.
“The offsite drainage works are now complete and Gresford Road now fully operational again.
“As soon as we are physically and legally able to do so, we intend to commence the highway improvement works without any delay.”
Wrexham Council has also been asked to comment.
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme)
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