As New Bailey and Chapel Street get massive developments of offices, hotels, car parks and flats, there is one organisation that's behind it all – the English Cities Fund, or ECf, a part public body made up of Muse Developments, Legal and General, and the Government's Home and Communities Agency.
Back in 2009, Salford Council approved a Salford Central Development Framework that basically handed the whole area over to the ECf and with it a very strange way of making planning contributions, or Section 106, payments.
Instead of having to pay a fee for each scheme for things like public realm, infrastructure, education, affordable housing etc*, because of "special circumstances", payments were to be made into a Development Trust Account, "operated" states Salford Council "through a steering group comprising the City Council and the applicant"...ie ECf itself.
After a huge NCP car park, a Premier Inn Hotel, flats, houses and office blocks like One New Bailey have been built, the Development Trust Account should have a good few £million stashed away but no-one knows where it's being spent and whether it's being used by the ECf to shore up its own profits, what it calls `cross subsidy'.
The planning application for the ECf's latest proposal for a car park, retail units and 843 flats in five blocks up to thirty storeys high, off Stanley Street by the River Irwell on the Manchester border**, again makes reference to this secret Development Trust Account...
"The Development Trust Account, established via the existing Section 106 obligation, is controlled by the City Council and captures value created by the development of the commercial core and other viable sites and uses that value to enable development along Chapel Street, such as Vimto Gardens, to take place and to deliver high quality public realm and infrastructure needed to stimulate development adjoining the application site" it states, in one massive sentence.
The developer report that accompanies the application again makes reference to the Trust Account, basically explaining that affordable housing is last on the list for the funds...
"Following this cross subsidisation and [any?] additional funds will be brought forward for provision and enhancement of infrastructure and/or public realm" it states "Affordable housing provision is then covered by any further funds with any other matters following this..."
So far, in seven years there has been no affordable housing either built or proposed within the whole Chapel Street/New Bailey area. Nor has the whereabouts of even one penny from the Trust Account been disclosed, despite Salford Council holding that information – and despite these funds being, essentially, public money.
When the latest Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, was anointed last May, he promised – as the previous Mayor did – a more open and transparent Council. This is just not the case.
The Salford Star has been battling to get details of the Development Trust Account made public for well over a year, via Freedom of Information requests, internal reviews and, finally, the Information Commissioner, who is due to rule on the case very shortly.
In the meantime, the ECf is a law unto itself, with Salford Council cheerleading from the sidelines...
*Most developers evade and avoid these payments anyway in Salford – see the £40million Planning Scandal – click here
**Salford Council paid £3million for the land (which formerly housed a car park) on which these towers will be built – see here
• For full details of the ECf and the Chapel Street Secrecy see the huge article in Salford Star print issue 10 – click here for the PDF