Affordable homes too expensive to build, says developer of £400,000 flats
Plus our MPs may soon be out of a job, a stealthy consultation in Hoo, and more
Affordable homes too expensive to build, says developer of £400,000 flats
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but developers don’t tend to be the most altruistic group of people. While they are happy to build on any land they can get their hands on for maximum profit, they tend to want to do the bare minimum for the existing and new community they are creating.
As a sort of solution to this, one of the processes of planning are Section 106 agreements. They are effectively legally binding contracts between developers and a local council that the developer must provide certain facilities or compensation, and in exchange, they receive permission to build their development.
Section 106 agreements can take on many forms. They can force a developer to provide play areas, health facilities, money for new school places, changes to the surrounding road network, and perhaps most important, require them to include a quota of affordable housing within their developments.
The Chatham Waters development is a good example of this. Back in 2011, developers Peel sought permission to build the mixed-use development, consisting of 950 homes, student accommodation, hotels, leisure buildings, what is now the Asda supermarket, and more.
This is a large-scale development, so Medway Council were able to ask for a lot in exchange. They requested green space and play areas on the site, changes to the road layout at both Gillingham Gate and the Strand, financial contributions toward things like healthcare, education, waste, and the big one: 25% of the housing on site being affordable.
So, how is that going, eleven years later?
That’s right. Peel, having built hundreds of flats that are being rented for up to £1,840pm each or sold for up to nearly £400,000, has now discovered that they can’t actually afford to build the affordable portion of the development after all.
Now, I’m not going to claim to be a developer who understands the economics of this whole process, but if they can’t still fund affordable properties on the kind of figures above, maybe they shouldn’t be either.
According to the documents put together by Medway Council, Peel now claims that delivering the 237 affordable homes they agreed to would now see them lose £2.5m.
That said, they are generously willing to get on and provide the housing anyway, out of the goodness of their hearts, but only if Medway Council waives £440,000 in financial contributions that were also part of the original agreement.
Of course, situations like this leave planning authorities like Medway Council in an almost impossible position. They either have to accept the compromise offered by the developer, or they lose the affordable housing altogether. Either way, the developer wins, as they’ve already got their full market rate homes built.
At least in this case the affordable homes likely will be delivered, albeit with the lack of financial contributions for the surrounding local infrastructure.
This isn’t the first time this has happened in Medway, and it certainly won’t be the last. All the time an area like Medway desperately needs homes of all types, both market and affordable, developers effectively get to hold the authority to ransom.
It’s not good enough.
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Covid in numbers
Guess who’s back, back again..
Cases: There are still no specific data, but 1.5% of the population in the south east are estimated to test positive for coronavirus this week, up from 1.3% last week.
Hospitalisations: There are currently 32 patients being treated for covid in Medway Hospital, with 1 of them on a ventilator. The number of patients being treated is up 23% from last week, while admissions in the past week have risen 114%.
Deaths: No new deaths were recorded this week, keeping Medway at 975 covid deaths in total.
Vaccinations: 81% of the 12+ population in Medway have now had at least one vaccine dose, 77% have had two doses, and 60% have received a booster dose.
79% of those eligible for a spring booster have received one.
10% of those under 12 have had at least one dose of the vaccine.
16% of those aged 50+ have so far had their autumn booster.
Don’t forget that autumn booster jabs are now available for those aged over 65, those 18-65 with chronic health conditions, carers, or anyone who says they are often around a vulnerable person on the booking form. You can book yours here, with plenty of locations across Medway offering them in the coming days.
Our MPs may be out of a job
I try to avoid writing about national politics in this thing, but this week the national scene came crashing into local as new and soon-to-be former Prime Minister Liz Truss came out of hiding to do a local media round including an interview on BBC Radio Kent.
It went Very Well:
Regardless of whatever the strategy was behind any of this, the past week has dramatically shifted the political landscape nationally.
This means things have shifted locally.
Our three Medway constituencies have been fairly safe for the Conservatives in recent years, but the government is now polling at the kind of levels that could see two out of our three MPs out of a job.
Electoral Calculus has run the numbers and has worked out that there’s now a 52% chance that Gillingham and Rainham MP and portrait photography enthusiast Rehman Chishti would lose his seat in an upcoming General Election.
They also found a similar result over in Rochester and Strood, where MP and Minister for
Business Transport Housing Education (this week anyway) Kelly Tolhurst faces a similar fate.
As it stands, only Tracey Crouch is odds on to remain MP in Chatham and Aylesford, and even her chances are rather less certain than they were a few weeks ago.
None of our MPs can be thrilled at the position they have found themselves in, with Rehman Chishti hilariously avoiding the upcoming Conservative Party conference so as to avoid stealing the spotlight from the new PM.
Nothing to see here
Following the kerfuffle over the Future Hoo proposals, which direct how £170m of infrastructure funding will be spent to support growth on the Hoo peninsula, the plans are back out to consultation yet again.
What is interesting this time around is what Medway Council are emphasising and what they are very much aren’t.
The website and its social media posts are based very much on things like schools, open spaces, and new services.
Funnily enough, talk of the 10,000 new homes, a substantial new relief road, and a new train station don’t seem to be featured particularly prominently.
It’s hard to imagine why.
Local Authority is now publishing three times a week for paid supporters, meaning you can get two extra editions beyond this core Friday newsletter.
This week saw Steven Keevil investigate how an election candidate in Rainham can get zero votes even though he knows he voted for himself, while I put together our regular October Event Guide.
On Monday we’ll be publishing our in-depth sit-down interview with the outgoing Leader of Medway Council Alan Jarrett. It’s a wide-ranging and frank conversation, covering just about everything you’d think of and more. We talk about his past, how he got into local politics, his legacy as Leader, the effects of Brexit on Medway, the current strife within his administration, and just what he thinks of our three Medway MPs. I assure you that you don’t want to miss it.
Becoming a paid supporter costs as little as £3.75 a month and ensures we can keep this thing running for the long term.
Poundland look set to open in Rainham, likely in the old Iceland store. (KentOnline)
Inside the old Argos on Chatham High Street. (KHurbanx)
Rochester Bridge Chapel is going to open to the public for the first time. (KentOnline)
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If you hear about any Medway news that might be of interest, let me know! Hit reply to message me directly, DM me on Twitter, or leave a comment below.
Music that soundtracked the creation of this newsletter: NO DREAM by Jeff Rosenstock, Dykes To Watch Out For by Dump Him, Lily We Need To Talk Now by Lily Konigsberg, and Mirror II by The Goon Sax.