Thursday, 18 August 2011

Council bought off by Spurs managers company

A development company owned by Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp has dodged an English council’s affordable housing policy, claiming it won’t make enough profit if forced to provide 30% affordable housing for local people in Portsmouth.

Redknapp’s firm, Pierfront Developments gained planning permission to demolish the Savoy Court building in Portsmouth in 2007, along with planning permission to build 91 new apartments at the site, they are yet to start any work. The company also promised that 28 of the new builds would be affordable for local people, in line with the council’s affordable housing policy.

A strange twist of fate saw the Savoy building completely destroyed by fire only last week. Today, Pierfront Developments were granted planning permission to continue with the new luxury build, without the original commitment to provide affordable homes. The company claimed the development, with a previously predicted sale value of between £13 and £18 million, would not be viable if the 28 affordable homes had to be provided. Instead the company offered the council £400,000 to dodge its previous commitment, later upped to £600,000 just hours before the planning committee met.

Portsmouth councils affordable housing policy offers a loophole for developers, if they can demonstrate that they will not be able to make a 23% profit.

Readers of this blog may recall similar ‘viability’ arguments being put forward by Wrecsams chief planning officer to avoid implementing a 50% affordable housing policy here. Again the argument put forward by officers was that 50% would not be viable as developers would not be able to secure their ‘usual profit margins’. In the end Wrecsam council opted for a 30% threshold, with the loop hole of 'viability' included to allow developers to dodge the policy if profit levels don't suit.

Why councils or planning committees in England, Wales or anywhere else should form planning policy based on developer’s usual profit margins is beyond me. Surely the main function of the planning system should be to allow appropriate development which caters for a local need. Instead it seems the system across the board is open to offers.


Anonymous said...

Saved a few bob on demolition costs with that fire as well. I wonder if its arson?

Anonymous said...

Maybe they saved about £200,000 and that's why they upped the planning bribe!

Cneifiwr said...

By coincidence, the developers of the controversial Stradey Park site in Llanelli also paid £600,000 to be let off any commitment to affordable housing.

Affordable housing features strongly in Carmarthenshire's LDP, yet the council has one of the worst records in Wales when it comes to actually building any, and it has given itself much lower targets than Wrecsam.

If past and current practice are anything to go by, the LDP is worth no more than the glossy paper it is printed on.

Plaid Queensway said...

Planning policy is dictated by developers, consultants and civil servants. The developers/consultants formulate plans and strategies and then the civil service hire the same consultants to put forward a case for those 'policies' to councils and governments.

The actual needs of individual communities get paid a bit of lip service when local people and elected members kick off when things reach crisis point, such as an affordable housing policy chucked in here and there providing a few crumbs in terms of local housing (complete with a loop hole in case the policy doesn't suit the developers).

It's just profit before people, pure and simple. It's not the planning system itself that's the problem because it could work, it's the people and companies in control of it.