If you thought Salford Council planning policies and decisions couldn't get any stranger, try delving into the issues around two refurbished sites being developed by Endeavour.
The first is at Quay House, on Trafford Road, site of the old dole office opposite what is now the Oasis Academy. In January this year, a press release from Endeavour and Salix Homes, boasted of how "A landmark building in Salford - stood empty for nearly a quarter of a century - has been transformed into 41 new affordable flats"...
Funding from Salford City Council, via the Homes and Communities Agency's Empty Homes pot, had been secured and all parties emphasised how the flats would be 'affordable'...
"At present, there are more than 7,000 people on the housing waiting list in Salford, so not only has a milestone building been brought back to life, but this project is also providing desperately needed affordable homes for residents of Salford" said Eddie Sawford, of Salix Homes.
Jonathan Gwynne and Stephen Gray, owners of Endeavour, also got in on the act... "We're delighted to complete a challenging project with financial support from Salford City Council and the support of Salix Living, who will be managing the building's day-to-day business. These homes are to a high-quality standard at affordable rent in a fantastic location and I'm certain it won't be long before they are all occupied."
Fast forward to now, and Endeavour has submitted an application for the 'affordable homes' clause to be removed, despite the conditions of its original planning permission in 2015 stating very clearly that "The apartments shall remain of an affordable housing tenure"...
Now Endeavour, through its agency Resolve106, is attempting to get all this overturned, arguing in a letter to the Council that "The terms of the leases do not require the apartments to be let as affordable housing...Therefore, the leasing of apartments to Salix Homes is essentially a commercial arrangement rather than a matter that needs to be dealt with by way of planning condition."
The letter to the Council from Resolve106 adds, even more strangely, that "To date the project has been entirely privately financed"...
Resolve106 also claims that the timescale given for affordable housing provision was five years from 15th May 2017 until 2022, and that if any leases were terminated before then, the public money grant would have to be repaid.
However, its letter also states that there was "some confusion when the application was submitted as to whether the intended use of the proposed accommodation was to comprise affordable housing in perpetuity..."
The agency also argues that, as the site is in a low/mid value area "If an application were to be submitted now for the development of a wholly market housing scheme, then there would be no requirement for the provision of affordable housing..."
Endeavour has now submitted a S73 Application to Remove Condition 14 (Affordable Housing), and the Council is considering it.
Meanwhile, Endeavour has already been successful in overturning the condition for 28 affordable properties on its Queen's Terrace development on Great Cheetham Street West, almost opposite Broughton baths.
The Council planning conditions in November 2015 for these properties state quite clearly... "The dwellings hereby approved shall remain of an affordable housing tenure unless otherwise agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority..."
Resolve106 wrote to the Council stating that the area is classed as 'low value' and therefore "no affordable housing provision should have been sought"...
The agency also argued that the provision of affordable housing "was essentially in relation to a funding mechanism under investigation at that time and was not material to the grant of permission itself"...even though the planning permission was granted with a condition for affordable housing...
"Some confusion may have arisen as the planning application form referred to both the existing and proposed use as social rented housing, and the officer report referred to the project being supported by funding from the HCA (now Homes England) Empty Homes Programme" the letter states.
"At the date the application was determined" it adds "the offer of HCA funding was predicated on the completed dwellings being leased to Salford Council/Salix Homes although it is understood this did not necessarily require them to be used as affordable housing..."
The letter then states that "the project to date has been entirely privately financed and continues to be so..."
Even Salford Council's planning officer, Matt Doherty, who dealt with the case, was confused...
"From speaking with the council's Head of Urban Renewal I am aware that the empty homes funding remains in place although has not yet been handed over to the developer" he wrote in his report "There does however remain an agreement between the city council and the developer that the money will be paid on completion of the development and the dwellings would then be managed by Salix Homes for a period of 5 years as affordable housing.
"This is very different to what the applicant has set out in their supporting letter that accompanies this current application" he adds "ie, it says that the developer is proceeding to privately finance the development and that it will provide private rental accommodation and/or dwellings for sale to first time buyers."
However, the officer recommended that the condition for affordable housing was removed, which it duly was via a delegated Council decision which didn't go before councillors...
"There is a significant need for affordable housing across the city, and therefore the loss of potential affordable dwellings is not something the council particularly welcomes" the officer wrote "However the removal of the condition is considered to be acceptable in planning policy terms given that the Planning Obligations SPD does not require affordable housing as part of developments in the low value areas such as where the site is located."
Ultimately, both applications for the removal of affordable housing relied on Salford Council's own planning policies which open the door for developers to avoid provision of affordable housing and Section 106 payments in certain areas of the city which are now highly profitable sites for investors.
The Salford Star approached Endeavour, via Resolve106, at the end of June to try and clarify what was going on; how much public money was received and, in relation to Quay House, how the agency can state that "The Owner was retrospectively provided with grant funding assistance by the Homes and Communities Agency" and then a few paragraphs later add that "To date the project has been entirely privately financed..."
Indeed, the Star tried to get clarification on what was going at both Queen's Terrace and Quay House, but was told that the owner was on paternity leave. Endeavour has two owners, Jonathan Gwynne and Stephen Gray, as stated in the company's original press release. To date, no response has been received.
Meanwhile Salford Council, having approved the removal of affordable housing from the Queen's Terrace development, is currently considering the removal of the affordable housing condition from Quay House.
* Salix Living was offering a two bedroom flat at Quay House for a rental of £520 a month. If this planning condition is overturned, expect rents to mushroom...