A proposal to demolish part of Stretford Mall look set to be approved, while a residential project at Royal Works is recommended for refusal over affordability at Trafford Council’s planning meeting next Thursday.
The plans by RCW Stretford, advised by Savills, concern the Royal Works off Edge Lane.
The scheme sits on a narrow 1.7-acre strip of land between the Metrolink line and the Bridgewater Canal on the opposite bank to the Royal Mail sorting office. Five storeys at its highest point, the project is 40 apartments in two blocks, three townhouses and four semi-detached houses.
The site is historically industrial but now lies empty, and with officers reporting no grounds to refuse on heritage, drainage or design grounds, the scheme looked likely to be approved, particularly given Trafford’s lack of a five-year housing supply.
However, the sticking point is affordability. A development viability appraisal submitted by RCW initially concluded that no affordable housing contribution could be provided. The council’s consultants identified a concern that the benchmark land value paid for the site was too high, adding that such over-payment is a development risk and should not be accepted as justification for not meeting affordable housing requirements.
The council’s position is that five units should be provided on-site, or an equivalent commuted sum paid for off-site provision. Following its initial appraisal, RCW returned with an offer of a £60,000 payment. This is described by Trafford as equating “to less than one affordable unit and would therefore fail to meet the identified demand for affordable homes that this development should properly provide”.
According to the officers’ report. RCW has indicated that all of the apartments have been pre-sold, which combined with climbing development costs make any further contribution to affordable housing provision unviable.
Officers report that not enough information has been provided over costs, highlighting “gaps in evidence” and say that when the applicant has been given the opportunity to clarify questions it “has been unwilling or unable to do so”.
M&M Asset Management has fared better with its plans, revealed in August, which involve the removal of the market hall and adjacent parts of the building at the southern end of the Stretford Mall site – although the O’Briens pub will remain, the disused public toilets at its rear will be demolished.
If demolition goes ahead, retail space at the mall would be reduced by 49,500 sq ft, leaving it with 353,000 sq ft. The clearance would leave the site with a plot of 0.7-acres, which the applicant has said could be developed at a future date. Planning Works is advising M&M.
Eight letters of objection have been received by Trafford, three of them on behalf of O’Briens, which note both the impact of works and the potential impact of a vacant site over the long term.
M&M acquired the mall from receivers in 2014 and although it has added Aldi, major retailers including Wilko, TJ Hughes, B&M and Argis have all departed since 2010. Overall vacancy is 48%, while at the southern end all the major units and half the kiosks and stalls are empty. The council considers offices, improved retail, family-oriented leisure or up to 250 apartments as possible uses for the site.