"Having reviewed the Council's Planning Obligations SPD...it is noted that the site falls within a 'mid' value area. As a consequence, it is understood no affordable housing will need to be provided..." developer's application to build 196 properties.
At last week's full meeting of Salford City Council, Conservative Councillor Robin Garrido read out bits of the Tory Government's planning policy and stated that, on affordable housing policies, the "ball is firmly in Salford Council's court"...
Responding, Councillor Derek Antrobus, Lead Member for Planning, laughed off the criticism as "windy rhetoric", blaming the Government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for putting developer profits before the needs of the community.
Who is right? The answer is that they both are. In terms of planning payment get-outs, developers are avoiding their obligations through use of 'viability assessments' showing that they won't make a 'reasonable profit' (as it states in the NPPF) if they had to cough up. Salford Council has refused to challenge developers on such avoidance, which the Salford Star reckons has lost the city over £40million.
While developers are also using 'viability' to avoid the provision of affordable housing, in many areas of the city Salford Council's official policies do not require developers to provide any affordable housing at all.
This crazy policy - the Supplementary Planning Document, or SPD - has led to the loss of hundreds of affordable properties in the city, just when the Salford Mayor et al are screaming about an 'affordable housing crisis' in the city.
This week, Salford Council's Planning Panel of councillors will again be rolling over...sorry...discussing yet another application for a huge block of 'luxury' apartments in Ordsall.
This latest one, off Ordsall Lane and Dyer Street, is for two blocks, up to nine storeys high, of 196 flats and 'duplexes' to be developed by Selectrica Investments Ltd, which is only being required to provide one affordable property as part of its obligations.*
If this development was across the road in the Quays, a 'high value area', it would have to provide 20% affordable housing, or forty properties either on or off site...But because this area of Ordsall is deemed only a 'mid-value' area it doesn't have to provide any at all for the apartments.
The developer only gets hit for the eight 'duplexes' which are classed as houses,and has to supply 10% affordable housing - ie one house, instead of forty which would have cost the developer over £2million as a conservative estimate...
Of course, this bit of Ordsall is now much desired by developers, eager to sell to overseas investors, and is hardly 'mid-value'. Even the applicant gleefully states in its application, referring to its apartments...
"The SPD, updated in June 2015, sets out the city council's approach to securing planning obligations associated with new development...Having reviewed the Council's Planning Obligations SPD 'Residential Value Areas' website, it is noted that the site falls within a 'mid' value area. As a consequence, it is understood no affordable housing will need to be provided, based on the criteria set out within the SPD..."
As a consequence of this Salford Council policy, only one affordable property will be provided in Ordsall, which might not even be for 'social rent'.
As Councillor Garrido stated, when it comes to getting affordable housing from developers the ball really is in Salford Council's court. And the Council itself has admitted this, stating that it will change this policy in 2019 Ė by which time most valuable land in the city will already have planning permission.**
Who is being held to account for this mad policy that has lost the city hundreds of affordable homes? No-one it seems.
*The developer will be asked to pay £710,420 in planning fees on this scheme Ė for a bus top, a car share scheme, education and public realm. Plus that one affordable house.
** See previous Salford Star article: Salford Council Finally To Tighten Up Developer Planning Fee Evasion - click here
See also: A Tour Through Salford Council Spin On Affordable Housing Ė click here