This week will see another in a long line of developers who pay the people of Salford virtually nothing while erecting massive blocks of posh apartments in the city.
Tomorrow (Thursday) Salford Council's Planning Panel is due to consider an application from WB Developments (Salford) Ltd to build apartments on Wilburn Street, at the back of the Regent Road retail centre and by the Campanile Hotel.
The company wants to build 491 apartments, plus shops and offices, in four huge blocks of, including one which is 21 storeys high, right by the River Irwell. Waterside properties tend have a premium on their sale price.
The developer should be paying a total of £1,919,967 in various planning fees (open space, public realm, infrastructure and heritage, construction training, climate change and admin). Salford Council's planning officers, however, have agreed with the developer that the scheme has `viability' issues and that "the reasonable developer return, considered necessary by paragraph 173 of the NPPF, is not currently delivered by this development".
Furthermore, because the development incorporates a riverside walkway, it "is considered to deliver significant public realm benefits". Therefore, "It is appropriate that the S106 requirement is reduced to reflect the value of the public realm works that are to be provided".
The document doesn't actually state what the `reduction' for the developer actually is. It appears to be a 100% reduction – ie they pay nothing – except "a mechanism to ensure that a further financial contribution is made in the event that actual sales revenues reach a set level". Which all means that almost another £2million due to the Salford people has probably gone west. There's also no mention in the planning assessment of any affordable housing obligations.
Interestingly, while the application for the four blocks has been submitted by WB Developments (Salford) Ltd, the actual form submitted to the planning department has Salford Council and Peel Holdings as the land owners. Wiping out the fees to the developer would seem like a sweetener for the purchase, except that the `viability appraisal' was reviewed by `independent surveyors'. So that's alright, then.
• English Heritage has objected to the plans, arguing that the 21 storey block will visually impact the historic and listed Liverpool Road Railway Station and the Station Master's House (Grade 1). Salford Council has dismissed the concerns as they are "more than outweighed by the delivery of extensive regeneration and heritage benefits".
*Update: 7th November:
Yesterday at the Planning Panel these horrendous red brick blocks received planning permission. Comments from councillors included that the blocks were `too high’, had `no character’ and would be `detrimental’ to the area. Five councillors voted in favour, three abstained and one voted against the application.
Incredibly, not one single councillor asked about the loss of £2million to the city, as WB Developments paid not a penny in planning obligations. Instead, the developer agreed to pay for `public realm’ improvements but even veteran planning councillor Derek Antrobus was `surprised’ when they proposed to erect gates and close off that `public realm’ to the public at certain times of day... “It’s private land” reasoned one the developer’s team. A clause was added in the decision to ensure the `public realm’ would be open for the public.