Manchester launches consultation on planning system reform

Manchester City Council has set out measures it says will “improve the transparency” of the planning process, including adding public viability assessments for new housing projects.

The council has started a consultation on the changes, which it says would signal “a new approach for developer contributions”.

Among the key changes will be the inclusion of affordable housing statements and viability assessments for all new housing projects; typically, viability statements are not typically made available on the city’s planning portal.

The council said public affordable housing statements would “provide an overview of the affordability ambition of a new development”. Currently, the council stipulates that 20% of new homes should be designated as affordable.

Under the consultation, it is proposed that affordable housing statements are made public for schemes of 15 or more homes. Where no affordable housing is proposed, a full, un-redacted copy of the viability assessment will need to be submitted.

Meanwhile, the inclusion of viability assessments would allow the public to scrutinise developer requirements for Section 106 contributions.

These will be required when a project does not “include the necessary policy provision or financial contributions”, justified on viability grounds.

Viability assessments will need to be provided “in its entirety,” according to the consultation guidelines. This includes the purchase process, purchase costs, estimated construction costs, professional fees, land acquisition price, and estimated profit and developer target returns.

The consultation is now open and is set to run until 14 September, and the documents can be accessed here.

Cllr Angeliki Stogia, Manchester City Council’s executive member for environment, planning and transport, said: “We want the people of Manchester to have faith in the planning process so they know the decisions being made have been fully scrutinised and where possible, Section 106 is being negotiated working with developers on larger developments.

“This consultation signals a new approach for developer contributions so that everyone who has an interest in the planning process is clear whether affordable housing contributions will underpin new development in the city.

“The move towards publication of viability assessments and affordable housing statements mark the first step in making the process more open and transparent bolstering our clear commitment to affordable housing through the planning process.”

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Somewhat akin to shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, especially after the St Michael’s debacle, but welcomed all the same.

Hopefully this new framework will also stimulate a tabula rasa of approach to all aspects of planning by the city. I can’t be the only one whose eyebrows are almost permanently in their hairline at reading time & time again that the same firms advising on almost all major applications/strategic frameworks.

By MancLad

I hope there is some recognition of the fact that the city centre is the very worst place to be providing affordable housing. Why use the most expensive real estate to meet that need? You can provide 10 affordable units 500m out of the city centre for the price of 1 within it.

The most effective way of addressing affordable housing need is to take significant financial contributions from city centre developments and provide the housing elsewhere. Requiring on-site provision is utterly nonsensical.

By Anonymous

Exactly anon, affordable housing should not be in the city centre or sought after locations like the centre of Chorlton. It should be located in areas on need of regeneration.

By Alistair C

Understand the logic of the comments, but don’t diverse neighbourhoods make for stronger cities. Places that embrace the idea that affordable housing is just for periphery and not the centre should be careful what they wish for.

By Rich

City Centres will always be a place where the diverse population of the whole city will come together, so i don’t take the point re: diversity. In any case, what is suggested above is simply nudging the affordable provision a few hundred yards away, not a few miles away. Values drop off very quickly as you get out of the core of the city and the scale of extra provision that could be made for the same investment would be many multiples.

By Anonymous

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