Salford City Council's planning policies and practices get weirder every week. At next week's meeting of its planning panel, councillors will be considering a planning application from Stama Developments (Salford) Ltd to transform the derelict Crescent Police Station into 117 apartments and 23 townhouses, while keeping the building's facade.
Within the application, Council planning officers set out the necessary planning payments and fees, which total £1,467,738, made up of the following...
Open space - £530,310
Education - £100,178
Public Realm – £210,000
Affordable Housing – £627,250
However, the officer's report adds, as usual, that "The applicant has submitted a viability appraisal that has been assessed by external consultants given the Council's ownership of the site. Their advice is that the development cannot sustain a financial contribution at this stage.
"Profit levels are such that the scheme is likely to generate a profit level less than would normally be considered acceptable by a developer" it adds "However a clawback mechanism is still advised."
The 'clawback mechanism' usually relates to getting some money back off developers if their scheme does make a huge profit. At the start, however, they pay nowt.
What is very strange about this particular application is that the Council states that any money it does get back will be going, not towards affordable housing (even though £627,250 is earmarked for that) but towards its much longed-for iconic bridge over the Meadows – which will cost £4million, a price which has doubled since the Council first announced it (see previous Salford Star article for background – click here)
The planning officer's report states quite clearly(ish!) that "The Council will require planning obligations for affordable housing", before the very next sentence adds: "The maximum financial contribution of £1,467,738 would be directed towards the provision of the Meadows Bridge and/or public realm improvements along the Crescent Corridor."
Bridges before affordable housing? This cannot be serious, in light of last week's announcement by Paul Longshaw, the Council's Lead Member for Housing, that "we're committed to building genuinely affordable housing in the city". From this planning report it seems that Salford Council is more committed to 'building genuinely unaffordable bridges in the city'...
It's all very odd and, probably, immaterial, as these clawback arrangements have rarely, if ever, produced the full planning fees that should be payable to the city.
In the meantime, councillors sat on the planning panel might at least wish to pose the question whether Salford Council seriously puts bridges before affordable housing...
Update: 6th April 2017 - Planning permission for the development was refused at today's panel meeting, not on lack of Section 106 funds but issues to do with design and green space.