Demolition of 4 existing properties and redevelopment to form a block of 55 retirement living apartments comprising of 38 one bedroom and 17 two bedroom apartments and 1 guest suite and associated communal facilities, access, car parking and landscaping.
The Head of Planning reminded the Committee that this planning application had previously been submitted for consideration on 9 December 2020 as an application to modify a previously approved scheme at this site. However, the application had been deferred to enable the Committee to receive further information from the Council’s independent Viability Consultant on the developer’s request for a reduction in the level of Section 106 contribution previously agreed by the Committee on 13 November 2019 under planning permission MC/19/0797 due to the impact of Covid-19 and the current housing market.
The Council’s Viability Consultant explained that having undertaken an assessment of the scheme, he was of the opinion that the proposals put forward by the developer were not unreasonable, particularly taking into account the type of units to be provided at this site i.e. retirement living.
He explained that with retirement living accommodation, the developer would be required to meet additional costs not ordinarily associated with a normal development as property that is exclusively available for a restricted market could take longer to sell during which time the developer was required to continue to meet empty property costs e.g. council tax. In addition, there were sales and marketing costs to be taken into account.
In addition, as the site had previously contained 4 individual residential properties, the developer had been required to pay an additional premium over and above market value to secure the land and would not receive a financial return on the development until such time that the development was complete and the new retirement living apartments could be sold.
The Committee discussed the application and, in particular, the request from the applicant for a reduction in the Section 106 contributions. Concern was expressed that there was now no element of financial contribution available for greenspaces/open space, particularly as the occupiers of the new retirement living accommodation would likely make use of green, open space in Medway and the level of contribution of affordable housing which had been reduced to a level which would be insufficient to provide any significant level of affordable housing off site.
In response, the Head of Planning advised the Committee that the proposed allocation of the reduced Section 106 contributions set out in the report were officer suggestions and, if the Committee was minded to approve the application, the Committee could adjust the level of allocations as it wished, as long as they complied with the Developer Contributions Guide, other than the £12,769.89 allocated for mitigation measures in the Special Protection Areas as this was a set figure based on an assessed criteria and needed to comply with the Habitat regulations and was not negotiable.
Referring to the allocation for affordable housing, the Head of Planning advised that this allocation did not have to be utilised to fund affordable housing delivery in totality but could be used to top up bids for affordable housing and thus deliver more homes.
It was suggested that if the application was approved, the recommended Section 106 contribution currently allocated for public realm be modified to be allocated for public realm and/or Cozenton Park so as to be flexible having regard to any future projects.
The Viability Consultant suggested that the Committee might also wish to consider the introduction of an overage clause which would require a financial review of the scheme following the sale of the 50th unit so that in the event that the scheme proved to be more profitable than current projections indicated, the level of Section 106 contributions could be re-adjusted at that time. The Head of Planning confirmed that such action had previously been used on other developments.
Approved subject to:
a) The applicant entering into a Section 106 agreement to secure:
1) A contribution of £112,451.11 towards the provision of off-site affordable housing.
2) A contribution of £16,490.88 to support the reconfiguration of the Rainham Healthy Living Centre.
3) A contribution of £6,488.13 towards open space at Cozenton Park and/or public realm improvements in Rainham.
4) A contribution of £12,769.89 towards mitigation measures in the Special Protection Areas.
b) The inclusion of an overage clause requiring a financial review of the scheme following the sale of the 50th unit so that in the event that the scheme proves to be more profitable than current projections indicate, the level of Section 106 contributions could be re-adjusted at that time.
c) Conditions 1 – 29 as set out in the report for the reasons stated in the report.