The Public Interest & Affordable Housing

The Otterpool Park Garden Village will, if it gets the go ahead, have caveats attached to it. One of these caveats will be a section 106 agreement. Section 106 is a clause within the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act that provides a mechanism to recoup contributions from developers (towards schools, doctors’ surgeries, libraries etc) for infrastructure requirements to enable a scheme to go ahead. It has become the main way affordable housing is delivered. But under new legislation that came into force in April 2013, developers now have the ability to fast track challenges against a “section 106” if it can show that building the low-cost homes required makes a scheme unviable.

Affordable housing targets set by councils are based on local demand and supply, the costs of housing locally and local wages. The targets are usually expressed as a percentage of new housing supply. The targets are not legally binding, and if a developer can demonstrate through a site-specific financial viability test that the target makes a development uneconomic, then the requirement can be reduced or waived.

The Financial Viability Test is important for a developer. Viability reports were once confidential, they were not made public and even members of the planning committee (democratically elected Cllrs) could not see them. They had to rely on the recommendation of planning officers (who in turn rely upon an assessment by the District Valuer’s Service).

Their are companies such as Savills  – who rented out SDC’s land at Otterpool Lane and received £75,000 according to SDC’s payment to suppliers – who offer a Premium Service, but for between £1,000 – £3,000 s106 Management Ltd will produce a viability report that reduces or eliminates your affordable housing obligation. You can then take a holiday with the money that you have saved or pile it into your wheelbarrow as their website illustrates:

s106

Currently across Shepway a considerable amount of development is either happening or going to happen. On SDC’s website they set out  4 Major Projects, these are:

Folkestone Seafront – Planning Reference: Y12/0897/SH

Shorncliffe Garrison – Planning Reference: Y14/0300/SH

Martello Lakes/Nickolls Quarry – Planning Reference: Y06/1079/SH

Sellindge Village Expansion – Planning Reference: Y14/0873/SH

Why do we mention them. Well, campaigners across the UK have used the Environmental Information Regulations – EIR’s sister to FOI’s – to achieve considerable success in getting developers and councils to reveal the Financial Viability Tests made public.

What are the Environmental Information Regulations?

Significant EIR successes at the Information Commissioners Office have been achieved. The most significant cases are:

Lakota Redevelopment Bristol

Heygate Regeneration Development – Elephant & Castle

Greenwich Peninsula Redevelopment

If you’ve never written an EIR, don’t worry, help is at hand. For £6 plus p&p you can order EIR’s without the Lawyer

So what do these decisions mean? Well, in short, they mean that you the public of Shepway can submit an EIR requesting the financial viability tests/documents submitted by the developers. This includes all appendices, correspondence, and other relevant material. Also the decisions mean that SDC officers and/or the District Valuer’s Service, cannot and should not withhold this information from democratically elected Cllrs, nor us the Public, as Financial Viability Tests cannot be considered ‘confidential’ any more. We hope SDC and/or the District Valuer’s Service will now begin to publish the financial viability tests, as they are deemed in the Public Interest.

To make a EIR Request to the District Valuer’s Service you can send a request here , setting out you want the financial viability test for one of the projects mentioned above.

To make an EIR request to SDC you send your request here information.officer@shepway.gov.uk,setting out you want the financial viability test for one of the projects mentioned above.

If you need any help please do get in touch at shepwayvox@riseup.net

Shepwayvox

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