Cllr Robert Davis has responded to the Association's letter of concern (West End Green Development - Affordable Housing Provision- Letter to Robert Davis )over the affordable housing provision in the West End Green Development. Cllr. Robert Davis's response and Stephen Quinn's reply are below.
Thank you for your email regarding West End Green.
First of all I think it is worth making it clear that I very keen to obtain the maximum amount of affordable housing on any development site, whether that is provided on site or a through a commuted payment depending on the characteristics of the site. However, in making any decision I am bound to factor in the viability of a scheme as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. On this instance the applicant provided a viability appraisal by Gerald Eve that indicated the submitted offer was the maximum possible contribution that the scheme could afford without becoming unviable. This viability appraisal was reviewed on behalf of the City Council by GVA Grimley Limited who concurred with its findings. It was on this basis the decision was made by my committee.
Contrary to what has been printed in the press no local planning authority publishes viability reports wholly unredacted if there are commercial sensitivities within the report. Likewise if anyone makes a request to view a viability report in Westminster my officers are happy to share the report once any sensitive information has been redacted. This for example, would include rights of light payments put aside for neighbouring properties, which would have an impact on the developer’s ability to negotiate settlements after planning consent has been obtained. Should you want to see a copy of the viability report please contact the case officer, Nathan Barrett, on 020 7641 5943 and he will make the necessary arrangements.
I trust the above clarifies the situation.
Councillor Robert Davis MBE DL
Westminster City Council
Stephen Quinn's Reply
Thank you very much indeed for your prompt response to my email relating to the above. Apologies for the long time it has taken me to get back to you in turn.
I hope you will understand the underlying concern within my emails to you on this subject. Time and again people I speak to in our neighbourhood express great concern that the social make-up of our area has become much too homogenous, and that we need to see action to bring back as much as possible of the social mix that has disappeared over the years.
As I mentioned in my previous email, our members will therefore have been dismayed to read, relating to the proposals for the above scheme, that your officers advised: “it is unacceptable that the proposal does not meet the council's on-site affordable housing expectations”, and yet permission was granted.
I am pleased to read in your email that anyone may now view viability assessments for planning applications in Westminster, albeit redacted. I hope we will still able to make some sense of the information within. As an experiment, I will request a copy for the West End Green site and get back to you once I have had a look at it.
Thanks for your time on this.
Marylebone Association Planning committee
Almost three quarters of councils in the UK say that the current viability assessment system, referred to in our communications with Robert Davis above, and which are set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), is hindering their ability to deliver affordable housing.
Just 11% think that the test can provide the numbers of homes needed to address the housing crisis.
The figures come from a new report from the Association for Public Service Excellence and the Town and Country Planning Association, which have called on the government to do more to tackle the shortage of affordable housing.
The NPPF states that the cost of any requirements applied to development proposals, including affordable housing contributions, should allow ‘a willing land owner and willing developer’ to see a competitive return on a project and must not prevent it from being deliverable. But once land prices have been agreed, it is difficult for local planning authorities to require contributions if a developer says the land cost was too high to allow for them.
In the report, 'Homes for all: Ensuring councils can deliver the homes we need', 96% of councils surveyed say their need for affordable housing is severe or moderate.