County council owned property company This Land Ltd says it cannot afford any social housing on three sites it wants to build on in March
PUBLISHED: 11:11 07 January 2020
A property company set up by Cambridgeshire County Council says it cannot afford to provide any affordable homes or section 106 (community benefit) funds on three sites in March on which it plans to build 90 homes.
This Land Ltd - a stand alone company created by the county council - outlined proposals for its housing portfolio in the town last summer.
It has acquired land next to Hereward Hall in County Road, the former highways depot in Queen Street and a site next to Maple Grove infants' school.
But with its applications now before Fenland District Council, a clash is likely over whether viability studies produced for all three sites will allow the homes to be built without designating any for social or affordable housing.
Documents on the Fenland Council planning portal show officers are beginning to question some of the assumptions made in the assessments.
Mike Freeman, of Fenland Council, has told This Land's agents that he is "querying" some of the assumptions made in their viability assessment for the Hereward Hall site on building costs and profitability.
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This Land Ltd has used Intali - a Leicester based company specialising in negotiating viability issues - to query 106 and affordable housing obligations on all three sites.
Intali says it has used standard industry norms to prepare their assessments and argue that none of the March schemes would be viable if the full level of 106 obligations were made.
"The applicant considers that the scheme is not sufficiently viable to meet these planning contributions" it says of all three sites.
But Mr Freeman believes more detail is needed from This Land Ltd before the applications go before the planning committee of Fenland Council.
He has also told This Land Ltd to amend their submission to the council to make it consistent with other viability assessments. He says councillors are used to one particular system and "we need to be able to demonstrate a consistent approach when reviewing viability admissions that will withstand both internal and external scrutiny".
March Town Council met on Monday to discuss the applications for Queens Street and Norwood Road and have raised with Fenland Council the issues of affordable housing.
This Land has proposed 50 homes at Norwood Road, 19 next to Hereward Hall and 21 at Queens Street.