OUR FRIENDS IN THE NORTH MEMORIAL PRIZE
SALFORD CITY COUNCIL
Ladies and gentlemen, if you've never seen the classic BBC series Our Friends In The North, buy it, borrow it, just find it – the first few episodes almost seem like a transcript of real council meetings. It's all about regeneration gone completely rotten, and stars Salford's own Christopher Eccleston, plus James Bond Daniel Craig and a host of top, top actors in probably the best drama ever to be broadcast.
The Salford Star Mary Burns Awards have honoured Our Friends in The North with a special memorial prize given out to those who have excelled in, er, regeneration gone rotten. And this year's winner has to be Salford City Council for allowing developers to avoid £millions in planning fees and the provision of desperately needed affordable housing.
During 2017 the Salford Star documented £7.358million of planning fees avoided, estimated from official Council tables, taking the total avoided over the last four years or so to almost £50million and the loss of affordable housing to well over one thousand properties (see here).
There are two reasons for the avoidance of fees by developers. The first is via the Tory Government's National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF), which allows developers to make a 'reasonable profit' as part of their costs. The profits can be up to £24million which, when taken into account, make schemes 'not viable' if the full fees have to be paid.
The problem is that these 'viability assessments' are never made public in Salford so are not open to scrutiny, and planning officers appear to just roll over and agree with the figures, while developers cash in. The avoidance of planning fees is now a whole industry, with virtually ever developer in the city crying poverty in their planning applications.
The second reason why developers avoid paying up is Salford Council's own cock-eyed policies, introduced only a few years ago, that saw developments in certain areas in Salford completely free from having to pay fees or provide affordable housing.
In 2016, the Council admitted that it had got it horribly wrong and that "in response to changing levels of viability" it would change its policies – in 2019!!! By which time there won't be a scrap of land left in Salford without planning permission (see here).
So, 2017 saw developers again avoiding payments to the cash-strapped city...
In January 2017, Fortis Developments avoided £1.8million for huge blocks of apartments and houses in Salford Quays (see here). In February, Hampstead Investments avoided almost £445,000 in fees for 92 unaffordable properties at Clifton Business Park (see here); while in March, Glenbrook SQ avoided £804,000 for apartments in Erie Basin; and Countryside Properties (UK) Ltd and Sigma Capital Group avoided £657,000 in Little Hulton for 73 houses (see here).
Meanwhile, in June, X1 Developments avoided £988,000 in fees for 178 apartments and 13 townhouses, on the site of the Salford Skills Centre, while Vermont Property Development avoided £330,000 for 76 units of student accommodation at Irwell House, Frederick Road (see here).
October saw an estimated £452,000 in planning fees avoided by Caspia Management Ltd and Robinsons Brewery for its Brown Cow pub development near Eccles (see here), while, in November, Forshaw Land and Property Group avoided £600,000 in fees for building 219 apartments and 13 'duplexes' in Worrall Street in Ordsall, and Select Property Group avoided £1.18million in payments for its extension to the City Suites block at the back of the Greengate fountains (see here).
Some of these schemes have 'clawback' arrangements whereby if huge profits are made Salford Council can retrieve some of the money – but the Salford Star knows of only one development where this has happened. Many don't even have the 'clawback' clause inserted into planning agreements.
While the above schemes total around £7.3million lost to the cash-strapped city, July also saw Euro Car Parks, which had already avoided over £1million in planning fees for three blocks of apartments on Gore Street, go back to planning to demand a further £100,000 reduction in the fees it did have to pay, plus the removal of its 'clawback' clause (see here).
October saw the controversial English Cities Fund (ECf), which had already avoided around £93,000 in planning fees for its luxury Carpino Place development, actually get paid £175,000 by Salford Council to do 'public realm enhancements' next to its site (see here). And December saw Salford Council launch a consultation on its future 'vision' for Greengate, with boulevards, new parks, blocks of apartments...and not one single word about affordable housing (see here).
So, ladies and gentlemen, pack up your Poulsons, fester on your housing waiting lists and break out your box-sets for the winner of the Our Friends In The North Memorial Prize...
Salford City Council!!!
If someone from Salford Council would like to make an acceptance speech, please use the comments box below...
Winners of 2017 Salford Star Mary Burns Awards...
Feed The Rich Award (part 1) – Fred Done – click here
Disappearing Salford Award – Villafont – click here
Dick Turpin Award For Services to Bridge Hold Ups – Peel Holdings – click here
Carly Simon Award For Vanity – Councillor Derek Antrobus – click here
Feed The Rich Award (part 2) – Conservative Government and the HCA – click here
Corbynista Council of the Year – Salford City Council and Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett – click here
Grenfell Tower Urgency Award – Salford City Council – click here
Uncle Joe Stalin Award for Open and Democratic Government – Salford City Council – click here
Shameful and Unacceptable Practices Award – Greater Manchester Police – click here
Award For Self Destruction – Salford UKIP – click here