This Thursday, Fortis Developments will be putting a huge planning application to Salford City Council, for a total of 593 apartments and `duplex townhouses' within Furness House, Custom House and two tower blocks 27 and 13 storeys high.
18 apartments are to be built within a four storey extension to Custom House and 35 will be housed within a six storey extension to Furness House, on top of 114 apartments and townhouses in these buildings that were agreed by the Council last year: with no need for planning permission or any Section 106 fees paid, as it was a conversion from office to residential use.
A further 268 apartments will be housed in the 27 storey tower block, while 247 apartments and 25 `duplex townhouses' will be housed within a thirteen storey high block.
The application going to the planning panel this Thursday totals 568 apartments and 25 `duplex townhouses'. To plonk these in what Salford Council calls the `premium sales area' of Salford Quays, Fortis should be paying premium planning Section 106 fees.
For the apartments, thanks to Salford Council's planning obligations `SPD' brought in a few years ago, Fortis doesn't have to provide any contributions towards affordable housing, only for the 25 townhouses. 20% should be affordable – a massive total of five affordable properties.
However, Fortis tried to avoid even providing these. Council planning officers explain in the report going to councillors that "The applicant states that the development would not be financially viable if affordable housing was provided on site or off site, or if an equivalent commuted sum was provided".
Let's get this right – Fortis is saying that the whole development of 707 properties (593 in this application and 114 in the previous application) would be `unviable' if it had to provide five affordable houses! Surely even Salford Council wouldn't let them get away with this...
Meanwhile, Fortis has to pay planning fees for all the 593 properties, to mitigate the impact of around one thousand new residents traipsing around the place; for `public realm' etc.
According to Salford Council's own figures (taken from the Planning Obligation SPD document), Fortis should be paying £247,142 for the 25 `duplex townhouses' (on top of the massive five affordable properties), and £2,743,610 for the 568 apartments. That's a total of £2,990,752.
However, Council planning officers note that "The applicant...has advised that for reasons of scheme viability the development cannot support the level of contribution considered by the City Council as appropriate to mitigate its impacts, in accordance with the Planning Obligations SPD. The applicant has submitted a viability appraisal in support of their position..."
And, as usual, the Council caves in: "A review of the applicant's viability appraisal undertaken by the City Council's consultant surveyors concluded that the applicant's assertions that the scheme cannot support the level of contribution sought is sound..."
Instead of paying almost £3million to the city, Fortis will be paying just £1.1million, almost £2million less that it should be paying, although there is a `clawback' arrangement should the `viability' increase in the future.
The £1.1million will go towards "The resurfacing of, and works to improve transport and pedestrian connectivity on and to the Quays Loop Road from Sovereign Point to Trafford Rd, and/or Affordable housing (financial contribution for provision off-site)..."
So it looks like Salford might be getting its five affordable houses after all – but not on the Quays, of course!
According to Salford Council's SPD document, developers in a premium sales area like the Quays, building 600 high density apartments (this scheme will see 568) are allowed to make just over £24million profit from the scheme which is included in the total costs for `viability' calculations. No wonder nothing is viable!
*Fortis Developments also avoided £676,682 in fees for its Adelphi Wharf scheme, with no `clawback' arrangement in place – see previous Salford Star article – click here
See also The £42million Salford Planning Scandal – click here
Update: 20th January: Planning councillors vetoed the plans at the panel meeting, not because of lack of Section 106 payments but because of lack of green space, an over large car park and the overshadowing of apartments.