Thursday, 19 January 2017

Council to force publication of viability assessments

Greenwich Council has introduced a policy that will force developers to publish viability assessments if they say they cannot meet its 35% affordable housing requirement.

Developers who submit residential planning applications which do not meet the borough’s target to include at least 35% affordable housing in new developments of more than 10 new homes will have to make their viability assessments public from next week. The council approved the policy at its cabinet meeting last Wednesday.

Currently a developer can request the assessment remains confidential. The Labour-led council will set out what information should be provided when submitting a planning application, depending on the size and type, including the requirement to provide a public viability study.

This will be published on the council’s website, along with all the other documents submitted as part of the planning application.

Councillor Danny Thorpe, cabinet member for regeneration and transport, said: “This crucial change means the whole process will now be far more transparent – making the viability studies publicly available as part of the planning documents means the Royal Borough and residents alike can see precisely why a developer might claim they cannot meet our affordable housing targets. We believe we’re the first local authority in the country to be doing this – looking at policy which insists on these studies being in the public domain.”

Southwark Council is also consulting on a proposal to make viability assessments public. The council was criticised after it gave the go-ahead in 2012 to developers Lendlease for only 25% affordable housing, below its own 35% requirement. The council refused to make the viability assessment public, and only did so when the information commissioner overruled the council’s rejection of a freedom of information request.

Greenwich Council was also ordered to publish a viability assessment by a first-tier tribunal last year concerning a 10,000-home development.

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