Shepway District Council have now put up the information regarding the special meetings of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee and the Cabinet, on Wednesday 27th Sept 2017, to discuss the funding they are seeking from the Marginal Viability Fund for the Ship Street Site.
The Marginal Viability Fund (MVF) is designed to get housebuilding started quickly on sites where the upfront costs of putting in the infrastructure are not stacking up financially. For example, this could be due to unforeseen costs for utility provision or abnormal site remediation.
The the remediation work undertaken by the current owners, there remain costs to deal with sub-surface structures and perimeter walls, as well as contamination costs – which have been costed at £2,384,113.
The Ship Street site is a former gasworks and is considered to be contaminated land which needs remediation, hence it being designated a brownfield site. It is located in an area which is within the top 20% most deprived areas in the country. 68% of households are amongst the top 20% most deprived in the country; and the unemployment rate is twice the rate for Kent and Medway and higher than the UK rate, so say SDC.
However, that said, SDC admit that their “proposal to purchase the land at Ship Street, is not one that will generate a substantial commercial return for the Council and there is a risk that there could be a degree of loss.“
Hence the reason why the scheme requires significant investment in remediating the land which would make the scheme unviable for the Council. This is why SDC are applying for monies towards these abnormal costs under the Marginal Viability Fund (MVF) to make the development feasible financially for the Council.
So is the purchase of the Ship Street Site which allows for up to 100 homes to be built, but SDC are now saying they, or their developer would build 85 homes, value for money for the local Shepway taxpayer, given there is a risk that there could be a degree of loss.“?
The Council admit there will be pre-development costs and these are anticipated to be in the order of £230,000. The acquisition costs are set out in Appendix A, but we the public are excluded from knowing how much local taxpayers money SDC will spend on the acquisition of the site by virtue of paragraph(s) 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972.
Also a lot of the documents available on the the National Grid Property Portal website, are heavily redacted so making it difficult to determine how much re-mediation of the land is necessary and what contaminates lie within the land. This is “environmental information” and should be released, in our humble opinion.
For decades, the Council has sought the development of this site for residential use but it has not attracted private investment. We wonder why not?
The funding application to the MVF has to be submitted by the 28th Sept and we wonder why SDC are leaving it to the last minute to seek permission to obtain the funding.
Finally how much has SDC offered for the site, is it above the £2,878,305 million SGN Commercial Services Limited paid? Surely the local Shepway taxpayer has a right to know especially when SDC readily admit “there is a risk that there could be a degree of loss.” involved.
The Shepwayvox Team