The plans for the former New College site in Wellington and nearby flats owned by Wrekin Housing Group will see more than 70 affordable rented homes built, in part thanks to a £2.38 million boost from the government’s Getting Building Fund.
Telford & Wrekin Council has now agreed to step in and push through the acquisition with a compulsory purchase order (CPO) of the last few occupied flats, on Glebe Street and High Street, if deals cannot be reached with the occupiers.
The council says that while every effort will be made to negotiate the sales, it may be necessary to rely on the order to ensure the project is not delayed.
This is because the project must be completed by March 2025 in order to secure the grant money.
A report seeking approval for the CPO, presented to the council’s cabinet at a meeting on Thursday, said agreements were yet to be reached on 12 of the 130 flats.
Councillor Lee Carter, cabinet member for neighbourhood services, regeneration and the high street, said the scheme was a “once in a generation opportunity” for Wellington.
Opposition Conservative group leader Nigel Dugmore welcomed the report, saying: “It desperately needs doing and the sooner the better.”
Liberal Democrat leader Bill Tomlinson said it was important to be sensitive to the residents affected.
Councillor Carter said: “As an authority we will work very closely with the housing group to make sure the processes and procedures as part of this CPO will be followed, but also that Wrekin Housing Group do offer that care and attention to existing residents.”
The report to cabinet said the council had a “compelling case in the public interest” to exercise its CPO powers, which can only be used as a last resort.
Once all the flats are vacated, the blocks will be demolished ready for the work to begin. The New College site has already been cleared.
The report said: “Despite the progress made to date with regard the remaining interests, and the fact it is likely that agreement can be reached with the remaining parties, the legal advice continues to be to progress with the making of the CPO to mitigate the risk of delays to the delivery programme to enable contractual GBF outputs to be met.
“The certainty of a CPO will also provide the comfort and ratification of a statutory framework to support affected parties with compensation entitlement.”
Cabinet unanimously agreed to make the CPO. All costs will be covered by the housing group.
A spokesman from the housing group said: “The Wrekin Housing Group are making a landmark £13m investment to make this development a reality.
“This project will ensure that Wellington continues to be a place where people want to live, work, shop and socialise, which is essential to ensure that our communities continue to bounce back from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“These affordable homes will make it possible for local people and young families to remain in their community and close to their families.
“We are grateful to Telford & Wrekin Council for their support in finalising agreements with the last few remaining private interests.”