Council in talks with housing developer over cash ‘shortfall’

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COUNCILLORS are being asked to consider a “substantial shortfall” in a housing developer’s financial contributions to help fund local services in a major scheme in Leeds.

Chartford Homes is awaiting planning permission to build 143 houses, 12 flats, 56 apartments and a care home on the site of the former Cookridge Hospital and its grounds.

A Section 106 agreement, in which the developer agrees to make financial and other contributions towards education and other services, has been drawn up but Chartford wants to make some changes.

A report being presented to councillors at a meeting next week says the Government allows councils to be flexible when it comes to revising Section 106 agreements.

Chartford is now proposing to provide 56 apartments for the social rented elderly care sector in lieu of providing affordable housing, according to the report.

Council officers have welcomed the offer of the elderly care apartments but there is some concern about a proposed reduction in the contribution towards education provision.

The report says the shortfall – excluding the affordable housing offer – is almost £780,000.

It adds: “The difference between the developer’s Section 106 offer and the policy compliant position is £779,000 if affordable housing is excluded. This is a substantial shortfall.

“If, for example, all the money offered by the developer (£400,000) were allocated just to the education contribution of £681,225 children’s services have confirmed this would leave a funding gap in their ability to provide school places in the future.

“The shortfall in the education contribution is particularly challenging given that this is such a high priority for the council.”

The report will be discussed by members of the plans panel next Thursday.

Officers are still assessing what the impact will be of shortfalls in the Section 106 money being offered.

Chartford has told the council that the offer of 56 elderly care apartments is worth the equivalent of £7.3m.

But apart from the £400,000 contribution, the company does not want to offer anything specifically towards transport, bus stop improvements, cycle way links, off-site green space or dropped kerbs.

The report notes: “At this stage officers are still assessing what the impact would be of Section 106 shortfalls in various areas so that the overall package can be properly evaluated and a balanced planning judgement made in the round about the package being offered. This will require further work looking at the implications for public and sustainable transport, education and off-site green space.

“However, it is also clear that the package on offer has attractions in bringing forward a substantial extra-care scheme which would be affordable and attractive given the needs in this sector of the population which is likely to increase with time.”

It concludes: “The completion of this scheme; the reuse, refurbishment and improvement of the listed buildings on the site; the creation of areas of on-site publicly accessible green space and the delivery of market housing on a former brownfield site in the areas are all key aims.”

Local councillors say it is important to “strike a balance” and look in detail at what is being proposed.

Liberal Democrat councillor Sue Bentley said she would like to see a larger contribution towards education and for providing a play area/green space.

“We have asked if they can up the education contribution and also to look at off-site green space,” she said.

“We want the money for a new play area as there is not much for young people to do.”

The proposed elderly care provision was “really important”, she added.