DEVELOPERS behind Weymouth's Curtis Field housing project have revealed they were close to walking away from the scheme and closing the site after 16 months of delays.

Betterment Properties say that although the application for the next phase of the development was submitted to Dorset Council in good time, it had been held up mainly by a failure to agree with officials on a range of issues including provision for St Augustine’s School and the layout of roads around the school site.

Despite the delays, detailed design work for the project has now been approved.

The area planning committee agreed the details of Phase 2B of the scheme for 99 houses, which includes a pedestrian access along Cockles Lane, as well as details of house designs, road layouts and landscaping, with planning for sports and recreation areas, including a multi-use games area.

In a letter to the council's planning committee, the company's agent, Malcolm Brown, said that at one time, just before Christmas, Betterment had considered closing down the site and disbanding its building team because it was making such slow progress with official consultations.

He complained that there had also been a slowness of some, non-council, organisations to respond to consultation letters and others seeking to make last minute changes to the, already agreed, masterplan.

Prior to that it had been selling one home every three days and, at the time, made up 80 per cent of the company’s business.

“In December the applicant was made aware of a late objection by Natural England which caused a further seven months delay," the letter stated.

“During that time the applicant’s team worked tirelessly to satisfy consultees after receiving conflicting comments. We believe that we have now addressed all the concerns which will meet with the approval of all consultees, including the town council.

“I urge you to approve these reserved matters and let them get back to building much-needed home that will, in turn, deliver land for St Augustine’s School, to which the applicant is committed, and more affordable housing.”

Members of the Dorset Council area planning committee were told that Weymouth Town Council had expressed concerns that only 27 per cent of the phase would be for affordable homes, when 30 per cent had been agreed, and that it still had some questions about biodiversity planning for the site.

A planning officer, Lachlan Robertson, said that although the biodiversity management plan for the site remained to be signed off he was confident it would be and said that the slight shortfall on affordable housing numbers, which amounted to less than three homes, would be made up in the next phase.

Councillor Kate Wheller said she hope officers would keep an eye on the affordable housing numbers. She also called for a full safety audit on the site’s ‘balancing ponds’ which are used to retain surface water run-off.