Demonstrating how to overcome the challenges of delivering a 100% Affordable Housing development on a small site with significant ground problems and where viability is marginal.
- This case study demonstrates the challenge of achieving a viable development on a small site with significant ground problems (i.e., peat soil) and where viability is often marginal.
- The development of 100% affordable housing onsite was made possible by a Land Release Fund grant. Salford City Council were able to capitalize on this funding opportunity by:
- the Estates team taking a strategic role in conducting market research and building, over time, a network of partnerships with development partners and
- Planning developing evidence on housing demand and land availability and facilitating the delivery process through its development management function.
Key Success Factors
- Planning provided market intelligence through the local plan including housing need projections and land availability assessments.
- Planning facilitated on-site delivery. Pre-application discussions with the developer ensured all parties understood the site constraints in conjunction with the relevant planning policy requirements for the site.
- This ensured there were an appropriate mix of uses, and that design quality was factored in alongside other material considerations including the viability of the development.
- Planning managed all stakeholder inputs, including liaison with consultees, members and the public.
- The development is subject to a Section 106 agreement. This acknowledges constraints e.g., viability at the time of construction, and provides for ‘claw back’ of developer contributions, which are required by planning policy for this type of development, as and when land values increase over time.
- Design skills: “… you do need to have some level of design experience to understand how the sites have been laid out and whether or how you can actually improve upon the submissions” (Planning Officer)
- Astley Road is a windfall site. It was not allocated in the Local Plan because it became available after the plan was adopted following the closure of municipal offices.
- The site was an Asset of Community Value (ACV) under S87 of the Localism Act 2011 following the cessation of its use as municipal offices. However, the site was delisted as an ACV after 5 years with no community uses brought forward during this timeframe.
- The principal constraints to development at Astley Rd were adverse ground conditions, specifically extensive presence of peat and a high-water table. These have been remediated with Land Release Fund monies.
- The local authority has a strong tradition of municipal provision and taking a value led approach that encourages direct action by the council to secure positive regeneration outcomes of public value, especially affordable homes.
- Planning plays a key role in a multi-disciplinary approach to development, led by the Regeneration Team and requiring multiple specialist inputs.
- The importance of collaborating closely with established partners-, and using market intelligence helps in securing funding opportunities such as Land Release Funding (LRF):
“I think it is important to have strategic relationships with your Registered Providers and other providers… so the Strategic Housing Partnership is significant. It's important to have a visible pipeline and not just linked to those sites in the Council's ownership, but also private sector... having those relationships and that intelligence base… when opportunities arise. You might have 100 sites, but based on that funding opportunity, you pick site 15”. (Housing Officer)
- The role of Planning as an enabler - The ability of planning to play an enabling role is also crucial:
“You need to have your consultees in place and they need to be able today to have the capacity to respond to those constant requests and any additional information within an appropriate time scale.” (Planning Officer)
- The retention of skills and resources in house by the local authority was also a key factor:
“…having the resources in place internally… strategic property, strategic investment, strategic planning… for some authorities, that's a little bit of a rarity. We decided to maintain our teams to maintain our resource, whereas other local authorities reduced… or haven't recruited back. That's kind of thanks to our members who have always had that kind of entrepreneurial (approach/attitude) if you invest.” (Housing Officer)
- Having a properly resourced planning service is crucial to delivering the development and affordable housing.
“We need to ensure that we got the resources in place. Planning is important. It’s all very well saying “We need to start building houses… but then when push comes to shove, you need the resources to be able to determine those planning applications.” (Planning Officer)
- the importance of pre-application discussions:
“It's really important that you go through the pre application process because that makes it easier for us and for the developer further down the line … we don't want to be in a situation whereby you receive a refusal notice for something that could have been resolved prior to the submission of the application”
- the need to retain design skills in-house: “I think you do need to have some level of design experience to understand how the site’s been laid out and whether or how you can actually improve upon the submissions… some developers will come in with the bare necessities and it's for you to try and enhance the scheme… to create a benchmark for future schemes coming forward elsewhere. So, I do think you need to have that design expertise which does come with experience” (Planning Officer)
- At corporate level, a value led approach - an approach that acknowledges the need to take risks is very important: “Our Members are more risk taking… I mean there is obviously tons of leadership and political affiliation … municipalization and inclusive growth and an ambition to insource services where possible. And there's also the entrepreneurial … because without that development, you're not going to get the business rates or the Council tax that allows you to get your income stream to be able to develop things like a housing company to then have your own kind of products in- house.” (Housing Officer)