At Para 57 of the new and revised NPPF it states:
All viability assessments, including any undertaken at the plan-making stage, should reflect the recommended approach in national planning guidance, including standardised inputs, and should be made publicly available.
On the 18th April 2019, Savills submit the Tontine Street Viability Assessment for No 86-88, planning application Y19/0016/FH (see organe square in map below), to Folkestone & Hythe District Council planning department.
The Tontine St site is owned by Lance Stephen Mckay, who bought the land on the 12th July 2017, for £400,000, according to the land registry.
What is curious, is Savills “the experts in local and international property” marked the Viability Assessment “strictly private & confidential” – when surely they ought to have been aware of the new and revised NPPF.
It’s clear then, the Tontine St Viability Assessment should have been placed into the public domain in April 2019, in accordance with the new and revised NPPF. The fact Savills and the Council were ignorant of the changes to the NPPF cuts no mustard in law.
It has taken eighteen months for the document to placed into the public domain on the Council’s website. It was placed on the website on the 30th Oct, 2020, ten days after the meeting and nine days after our blog saying planning permission for the site was unlawful.
The freshly published viability assessment is effectively an executive summary, as it is missing the appendices containing the full appraisal. This must mean the council feel there were exceptional circumstances not to publish the full report. What were/are these exceptional circumstances? And will the council give them a public airing?
So how has this come to pass?
According to well placed Council sources, there have been some technical issues with the Council’s planning portal website. These issues only came to light soon after the 20th Oct Planning Committee.
So the “technical issues” the Council speak of lasted eighteen months.
Now you can choose to believe what you want, but we honestly do NOT believe a word of it.
The officer’s report DC/20/22 mentioned the viability assessment three times. The conclusion was that independent assessment of the document showed the applicant could contribute £321,000 to affordable housing. The officer accepted that an off-site contribution would be the best solution in this instance. However, as we’ve said the viability assessment was not released to the public, nor to the committee.
Under Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972, makes it clear the Viability Assessment is considered a background paper for the report, and one the committee and the public should have been able to read, prior to the meeting. Because this did not happen, and because the Cllrs did not have ALL the facts to make a rational decision, the planning permission should be quashed as it was not lawful and brought back to the planning committee afresh.
Now off course there has been a few anomalies in last couple of years as well as very recently regarding the planning committee’s behaviour such as:
The fact that the Chairman of the Planning Committee, Cllr Clive Goodard, failed to change his register of interest to reflect he’s now self employed and working for Leo Griggs.
And newly unearthed evidence shows Leo Griggs donated £1,000 to the local Tory Party in 2019, which was prior to planning permission for the Royal Victoria Hospital Site, on Dec 17th 2019.
The fact the donation was below £1,500 meant it could remain below the threshold of public exposure. Of course donations are perfectly legal, but donors often expect something in return for their money.
Anyway, coming back to the Tontine St Viability Assessment, the Council will reconsult on the viability report/matters only, with a view to report back to Planning Committee in December for members to consider the viability issues following public consultation.
As we understand, new site notices have been posted on the 2nd Nov and say anyone has until the 27th to comment about the Tontine Street Viability Assessment.
New letters have been sent out to those who live close by to the Tontine St development, dated Nov 2nd, and comments about the Viability Assessment must be submitted by Dec 3rd.
This means that a newspaper notification should be posted in next week’s Folkestone & Hythe Express.
If you wish to comment on the council’s “technical issue” or the lack of transparency around the failure to disclose the Tontine Viability Assessment, then contact – email@example.com
Just for the record, Cllrs Collier (Con), Goddard (Con), Hollingsbee (Con), P. Martin (Con), Meyers (UKIP) and Cllrs Wimble (Ind), voted for the Tontine St application.
Cllrs Fuller (Lib Dem), J. Martin (Green), Meade (Lab) and Treloar (Green) voted against the application
The Shepway Vox Team
Dissent is NOT a Crime