Yesterday's meeting of Salford City Council was full of ruling Labour Party councillors and City Mayor, Ian Stewart, bleeding their hearts all over the Council chamber as they passed £22million worth of cuts to public services which will affect some of the city's most vulnerable people (for details see previous Salford Star article – click here)...
...Today, however, massive planning applications were posted on Salford Council's website for over one thousand properties in Ordsall, Chapel Street and MediaCityUK in which developers will evade over £4million in planning fees and Section 106 obligations – payments for things like extra public space, infrastructure and school places caused by new residents moving into the flats and houses.
To try and hide the massive scandal, Salford Council no longer publishes what developers should be paying to pockmark the city with huge concrete developments – it only publishes what they intend to pay, after `viability' issues have been taken into account. The get-out of `viability', that virtually every single developer in Salford is now using, basically means their profits won't be high enough if they had to pay the city what they are supposed to.
Given that the figures are now hidden, the Salford Star has estimated what each payment would be for each scheme, taken from official Salford Council figures in its well hidden Planning Obligations SPD document on `viability'.
The largest evasion of payments comes from Peel Holdings' application for 476 apartments and commercial space it's proposing to build in Phase 2 of its MediaCityUK development in two, twenty storey high blocks. This is classed as `premium value' land for which planning payments should be, according to Salford Star calculations, £2,299,080.
Peel Holdings, having done an `outline' deal with Salford City Council in 2014 for the site, will pay absolutely nothing.
Next up are plans by ECP Holdings Ltd for three huge blocks of 364 PRS (Private Rental Sector) apartments, eleven townhouses and commercial space, housed in three blocks ranging from 13 to 22 storeys high on a current car park site bounded by Gore Street, Trinity Way and Chapel Street.
To build in this `mid/high value' area, the developer should be paying, according to Salford Star calculations, £1,811,362 – Salford Council is proposing to let ECP off with paying just £800,000 plus a `clawback' agreement should the developer admit to making bigger profits than it has told the planning officers...
"...as the applicant is not contributing the full amount considered by the City Council as necessary to mitigate the impacts of the development, a viability appraisal has been submitted in support of their position" states the Council planning report "The applicant's viability appraisal has been assessed by the City Council's surveying consultants.
"Despite some disagreement as to the market value of the site, it has been agreed that a contribution of £800,000 can be made to mitigate the impacts listed above without rendering the scheme unviable" it adds "It is considered that the above contribution is acceptable taking into account the public realm that the site does deliver, the removal of surface car parking and the development of a long under-utilised site and the provision of new homes."
Thus, the city losing over £1million is considered `acceptable' because a car park has been removed and there's a path going through the site?
Over in Ordsall, MMGG Properties is proposing a seven storey block stuffed with 142 apartments on the car park site of Gresham Mill on South Hall Street, near Ordsall Lane.
Salford Council officers report that "The development is likely to result in an increased use of the public realm, open space, education facilities and affordable housing in the local area" and that "Planning obligations have therefore been sought to mitigate against these impacts".
However, it adds, "An assessment of financial viability has established that the scheme cannot contribute to all the elements identified above, with a viable contribution of £55,000 agreed with the applicant".
According to Salford Star calculations, MMGG should be paying £685,902 – a loss to the city of over £630,000 – with no `clawback' agreement.
Meanwhile, on Liverpool Street, the old Skills Centre is to be redeveloped by KKI Land Ltd into five and six storey blocks containing one studio apartment, 23 one bedroom apartments, 65 two bedroom apartments and four three bedroom apartments; 93 dwellings in total.
In this `mid/high value' area, the developer should be paying £449,217, according to Salford Star calculations. But KKI Land Ltd will be paying nothing, except the unlikely possibility of a `clawback' - even though the planning officer's report states "the proposed development would require the provision of financial contributions towards open space, public realm improvements and transport infrastructure"...
It's the same get-out as all the other developers... "the submitted viability appraisal shows a developers profit to be significantly below the general profit levels normally expected (ranging between 15%-20% of GDV)" the officer states "This report has been independently reviewed on behalf of the Council by a third party. This review confirms the conclusion that should any contributions be made it would render the scheme unviable."
And finally, Whit Lane has been awaiting development for over ten years. Now Keepmoat has finally submitted plans for the first two phases of the development – 267 two, three and four bedroom houses, of which only 18 will be available as social rent properties (25 will be shared ownership).
As Whit Lane is in what is deemed a `low value' area, it doesn't need to provide any affordable housing, thanks to the Council's new policies. But as it is providing 20% `affordable' housing over the three phases, Keepmoat has been let off with over £1,500,000 in planning fees (which is roughly the cost of the `affordable' housing).
Even leaving the planning fees for Keepmoat out of the equation, a total of £4,390,561 will be lost to the city, according to Salford Star calculations, at just one planning meeting scheduled for next week. This can be added to over £19million in lost fees revealed previously (see The £19million Planning Scandal in the last print edition of the Salford Star – click here).
As Salford Council's councillors and City Mayor, Ian Stewart, bled their hearts over £22million cuts yesterday, residents may well be asking why they don't toughen up when it comes to developers turning the city into a cheap Monopoly board...
Main image shows proposed Gresham Mill development Ordsall