This Thursday, Salford Council's planning panel looks set to approve two applications for over 250 apartments and townhouses that will see developers avoid over £1million in planning fees.
First up is a proposal by X1 Developments for 178 apartments and 13 townhouses, in five, ten and 14 storey blocks, on the site of the Salford Skills Centre at the corner of Liverpool Street and Oldfield Road.
According to Salford Council's own tables of planning fees, this development in a mid to high value area should be contributing £988,364 in planning fees for open space, public realm and transport, while providing 18 affordable flats and three affordable houses. In the event, the city will get nothing, except through a possible 'clawback' clause...
"The application has been supported by a Viability Report which concludes that the proposed scheme would not be viable should the development be required to provide for financial contributions towards public realm improvements, transport infrastructure, and the provision of public open space" states the Council's planning report.
"Indeed the submitted viability appraisal shows a developers profit to be significantly below the general profit levels normally expected (ranging between 15%-20% of GDV)" it weeps "This report has been independently reviewed on behalf of the Council by a third party. This review confirms the conclusion that should any contributions be required it would render the scheme unviable.
"In this instance it is noted that the independent review of development viability considers that the proposed scheme could not viably provide for the above planning
obligations" it adds "therefore it is not considered reasonable in this instance to require these to be secured by way of section 106 agreement."
The report concludes that a 'clawback mechanism' should be provided so that if "market values change... and it becomes viable to provide for planning contributions the necessary contributions are secured" – without actually giving a figure of what the 'necessary contributions' actually are.
So far, the Salford Star has only come across one development amongst dozens where any money at all has been 'clawed back' from developers.
Next up with the violins and hankies are Vermont Property Developments and Bernard and Deborah Lynch, who are proposing 76 units of student accommodation at Irwell House, on the site of the Marpol Security offices on Frederick Road.
Here, the developers have offered a Section 106 payment of just £34,960, to go towards Peel Park, with a further £129,000 subject to yet another 'clawback' agreement. According to the Salford Star estimate of planning fees, based on Salford Council's own figures, they should actually be paying £367,102.
"Whilst it may not be an argument that needs to be recorded, there are obviously
numerous examples of schemes throughout the country, and in Salford, where Planning Permission has been granted and there is no, or a significantly reduced rate of planning obligations within a particular scheme where there will be multiple economic or social benefits emanating from the development itself" state the applicants
"There are significant costs associated with the erection of student accommodation and the provision of a basement car park which will have an impact on the economic viability of the development" they sob "We therefore ask that the Council take this into consideration when debating the need for any planning contributions..."
The planning officers have certainly taken it into 'consideration' and rolled over. Now Thursday will see whether councillors on the planning panel will merely tickle their belly, as the city loses another £million or more...
* The main graphic shows the proposed new development on the site of the Salford Skills Centre