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SALFORD COUNCIL DOES NOTHING AS PORTSMOUTH COUNCIL FORCES TRANSPARENCY ON DEVELOPERS
 

Star date: 19th October 2017

PORTSMOUTH CITY COUNCIL FORCES DEVELOPERS TO REVEAL VIABILITY ASSESSMENTS

As developers in Salford continue to evade £millions in planning obligations and provision of affordable housing, Portsmouth City Council has passed a motion forcing builders to publicly reveal the viability assessments that give them a get-out.

The Salford Star has shown that over £40million has been avoided in the city by developers, plus the loss of over 1,000 affordable houses... "We want to stop developers that are out to deceive people" said Portsmouth Councillor Steve Pitt, as Salford City Council does nothing.

Full details here...


Portsmouth City Council this week passed a motion, supported by all parties, to try and stop greedy developers avoiding Section 106 payments for things like roads and parks, and affordable housing.

In Salford, planning councillors have complained weakly in the past about developers avoiding payments but have done absolutely nothing. The Salford Star has shown that over £42million worth of these payments plus the provision of over one thousand affordable properties have been avoided through 'viability assessments'.*

'Viability Assessments' are basically documents that show how developers' profits won't be big enough if the full contributions were made. And there's now a whole industry of planning consultants, including Gary Neville's Zerum company**, which specialise in producing these assessments.

"We want to stop developers that are out to deceive people" said Portsmouth Councillor Steve Pitt after the Council passed its no-nonsense motion.

It compels developers to be transparent and will "Require any planning application which does not meet the affordable housing requirement...to submit an Economic Viability Assessment which must be fully public and will be published online alongside the other planning application materials."

Meanwhile, as an incentive, the Council is considering "offering a 'fast-track' planning service to applications which deliver 30%, or more, affordable housing".

The Portsmouth motion states: "This council recognises the need to provide quality homes which are affordable to those on low and middle incomes in Portsmouth, and for transparency in regard to planning applications to ensure that the council's own policies, on affordable housing requirements, as laid out in the Portsmouth Plan, are met.

"It has become clear that there are companies who are openly boasting in their promotion, that they can help developers to avoid paying Section 106 monies and making appropriate levels of affordable housing provision" it adds "These companies produce what are known as Economic Viability Assessments or EVAs, in order to demonstrate that developers are not making sufficient profits to enable councils to insist on full 106 or affordable housing contributions.

"This issue has caused concern among councillors across the political spectrum in the city, along with notable contributions from both members of the public and party activists of different hues" it explains "Whilst some of these EVAs are no doubt submitted in good faith, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the reports are often prepared in such a way as to attempt to confuse local planning committees and present a misleading picture.

"Indeed, some councils, especially in London, are now insisting that EVAs are no longer able to be submitted unless they are able to be viewed by members of the public and in open session at planning committee meetings" the motion concludes.

Salford City Council still refuses to make the viability assessments public, even after Freedom of Information requests, citing 'commercial confidentiality'. If Portsmouth Council and those in London can do it, this argument no longer holds.

The Salford Star will now be banging in Freedom of Information requests on every single application where 'viability assessments' have been used to evade or avoid planning fees.

The latest application to use a viability assessment was for the site of the Brown Cow pub in Worsley, where the Star estimated over £400,000 was avoided, including provision of affordable houses (see here)

Sign the Salford Star petition calling for more transparency in planning applications – click here


*See previous Salford Star article - £42million Planning Scandal – click here

**Gary Neville is a director of Zerum Construction Management Ltd, which has helped planning fee avoiders like Middlewood Locks (£6million avoided), Peel Holdings (£millions avoided) and Pegasus M6/Vermont Construction on Frederick Road (£400,000 avoided) – see previous article click here.


See also previous related Salford Star articles...

Salford Becomes 2nd Home Capital of England – click here

Only Two Affordable Properties Out Of 4,172 Built In Greengate and Chapel Street – click here

Salford Council Gives Ordsall Away For Nothing – click here

Fred Done Publicly Subsidised Flats Marketed To Foreign Investors - click here

The Fat End of The Wedge wrote
at 10:04:38 on 22 October 2017
I've signed. I made a comment on a planning application recently regarding the claims the developer had made about the unviability of Section 106 payments. How many others have done so? I also pointed out that their claims of the development not being suitable for local sustainable power generation were not true. There is of course a very big missed opportunity in all the recent development to incorporate solar PV/Water heating into new builds - much better than retro fitting - along with other equally relevant ideas.
 
Mike Corless wrote
at 06:29:50 on 20 October 2017
Even with a 'claw back' clause what is there to stop a developer selling off the development half way through construction to another holding company for a price that allegedly proves their non viability assessment and then having a profit share with the new owners when the development is sold off for a profit in excess to the non-viability assessment? Is the original agreement then null and void and not applicable to the new owners? Does anyone know the wording of the 'claw back' clause?
 
Shirley Jones wrote
at 15:58:37 on 19 October 2017
If I told them I couldn't pay my council tax due to insufficient funds, before I got any help, if at all, they would insist I'm sure on me providing proof of earnings/income before any agreement was arrived at. Worked at the courts long enough to know that. So why do they not ask for proof from developers who say they cannot pay their Section 106 fees? If they don't have to then why should anyone else have to?
 
Joe O'Neill wrote
at 15:58:22 on 19 October 2017
I Sometimes wonder with the apathy of Salford residents is the Star the only real opposition to this council. I have signed the petition have you?
 
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