Earlier this year, English Cities Fund (ECf)* got planning permission for 22 'luxury townhouses' on the site of the old Salvation Army hostel on the corner of Oldfield Road and James Street.
Over £2million of public money (including £100,000 from Salford City Council) had already been spent acquiring the site, demolishing the hostel and preparing it for developers.
When ECf applied for planning permission for the townhouses, branded Carpino Place, a Section 106 contribution was set at £119,400, itself a ridiculously low figure after the Council agreed that there were 'viability' issues if ECf had to pay the full amount.
ECf had to provide only £2,237 for Open Space towards the Islington Street Play Area (rather than £96,413, according to the Council's own figures); plus £47,762 for extra primary school places; and £69,400 for Public Realm...
However, instead of paying out the £69,400 for Public Realm, the Council stated that the amount "is to be paid in kind as English Cities Fund will be undertaking the public realm improvements themselves".
So, in the event, ECF paid only £49,999 for education and open space, with a 'clawback' agreement of £91,124 "should the viability of the development increase in the future".
The viability certainly looks to have increased because ECf is currently boasting that there are only three of its properties left for sale at Carpino Place, where the total value of houses is £6.4million. The Council should be jumping up and down getting its clawback money to pay for public realm. But no. Instead, the Council is proposing to actually pay ECf £175,000 for, er, 'public realm enhancements' next to the site.
A report going to councillors next week states the money is for "Providing 1060sq/m of new public realm space with matching paving materials to Chapel Street, a new bus stop and cycle lane with 3 new trees and 6 planting beds".
When the original planning agreement was put in place, any 'clawback' money was going towards 'Islington Street Play Area, Open space adjacent to Islington Street Play Area, Islington Park and Open space between James Street and Islington Mill'.
Someone kind of forgot about public space, and a bus stop and cycle lane which could have been claimed under 'transport' payments to help enhance the area for the posh townhouses.
So now, Salford Council is commissioning ECf to the tune of £175,000 to "deliver the public realm improvements", while also coughing up £83,821 on top for design fees, surveys, site supervision etc, making a total of £258,821.
It will also cost the Council almost £3,000 a year to maintain the new areas, and it will lose £4,500 in revenue from an advertising hoarding that will have to come down.
The contactor being used by ECf is John Turner Construction Group, which the Council report states, has lots of social value...including giving lucky pupils at the nearby St Philips CE Primary School "a behind the scenes view of the construction process at Carpino Place, delivering an assembly all about the development...
"School assemblies and talks are important to the next generation to feel part of the area where they live" the report adds. Prices for a three bed townhouse at the site range from £289,950 to £299,950, and for a four bed townhouse, £379,950.
When the Carpino Place development was launched, Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, said: "Salford is growing at a rapid rate. The city is being transformed with desperately needed new homes for the community..."
* ECf, or English Cities Fund, is a joint venture between Muse Developments, Legal & General Property and the Homes and Communities Agency, with support from Salford City Council.
Normally, developments from ECf aren't subject to publicly available details on Section 106 contributions, due to a deal struck for the whole Chapel Street and New Bailey area a few years ago. However, Carpino Place falls geographically outside that area so the Council planning department has had to declare figures.