Report of the Director of the Built Environment.
The Committee considered a report of the Director of the Built Environment in respect of consultation on the draft Planning Obligations Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).
Officers reported that, since the existing SPD had been published in 2014, national and local/London Policy had moved on and the City Corporation’s documentation now therefore fell behind some neighbouring boroughs and required updating in terms of the costs of providing infrastructure. Even with some of the changes being proposed around training and skills, the organisation would still fall below the levels being charged in Westminster for example but these would enable the City to put in place effective training and skills provision for local people to help them get back into work as the economy recovers and would also help ensure that businesses have the level of skills and the workforce they required.
With regard to affordable housing, Members had been aware for quite some time that the levels currently proposed were significantly below what is required to deliver effective affordable housing and the changes now being put forward would effectively increase the provision of affordable housing and the cost to developers to approximately £400,000 per unit versus the current £165,000.
Approval was sought for public consultation at this stage and the matter would then be referred back to this Committee later in the year to consider the responses received and for Members to decide when they would like to start implementing the provisions.
A Member commented that it was important for the Committee to appreciate that viability was not the only test and that the relative attractiveness of building in the City in terms of international and capital investment was key. He questioned whether the wording within the section on ‘Viability Testing’ should therefore be expanded to include reference to what the impact on international competitiveness would be as a result of these changes. Officers responded to state that the changes being suggested here would increase provisions but would also keep the City below its other main competitors/boroughs within Central London. They added that viability was a key consideration and that the viability assessment that had been undertaken suggested that the implications would be very small in terms of the overall cost of development. The Member came back to comment that he had not been referring to the City’s relative competitiveness with other boroughs but internationally, with other European capital cities for example.
Another Member spoke to say that he welcomed sight of this revised draft which reflected the issued identified at various meetings of the Local Plans Sub Committee with respect to affordable and social housing. He requested that, when future revised policies were brought to Committee, they were shown with tracked changes so that changes could be easily identified and reviewed.
Another Member thanked Officers for their work on this document. He responded to the earlier point made around international competitiveness, and commented that it would be quite easy to criticise Government policy and the way in which it chooses to have this financed, but proposals here were around bringing costs up to a level which made some sense in terms of the actual development costs of housing units. This would not make the City Corporation out of step with others in London. He added that the same comments around competitiveness might well be made as part of the consultation and that, if so, they could be properly and carefully considered by the Committee thereafter.
Officers reported that Planning had worked very closely alongside colleagues in Innovation and Growth on the policies being put forward where matters such as international competitiveness had been considered. In terms of the potential cash uplift, the proposals could be significant, attracting £16.2m over a 16 year period and this could have a transformative effect on skills supply. This would also contribute towards green finance/ financing of the green economy and ensuring that we have the future skills needed to be able to be globally competitive. She added that previous money from developers had, for example, been used to set up the Financial Services Skills Commission chaired by City Minister Mark Hoban involving Financial Services companies representing 25% of the City’s workforce and was very much about driving global competitiveness/effectiveness.
The Chair suggested, and the majority of Members agreed, that the draft SPD should be presented for consultation as drafted. He added that the thread running through this discussion was the City’s economic recovery and that much of this additional money would be used to increase the global competitiveness of the City itself. This was, however, a pan London/national matter. He added that this was precisely the time that skills, training, housing and other economic benefits were needed from development. The standard viability tests were referenced within the SPD and, in his view, the proposals were very proportionate, reasonable and timely.
The Chair concluded that Members of this Committee would also be able to feedback formally during the consultation period.
RESOLVED – That, the draft Planning Obligations Supplementary Planning Document, attached as Appendix 1 to the report, be approved for public consultation.