Planners are putting fresh pressure on developers in Brighton and Hove as they seek to increase the number of affordable homes being built.
They aim to tackle “land-banking”, the name given to the practice of gaining planning permission for a project, which increases the value of a site, but then not building the approved scheme.
Two schemes, with conditional planning permission, came back before planners yesterday (Wednesday 6 June).
While no one suggested that the owners were banking the land or gaming the system, councillors seemed keen to show developers that they had to use or lose it when it came to valuable permissions to build.
A scheme to build flats and offices on the site of Portslade Panel Works, on the corner of Orchard Gardens and Nevill Road, Hove, came close to being rejected.
And officials may yet throw out plans to turn the Preston Park Hotel, in Preston Road, Brighton, into flats.
The move may also help tackle the workload in the planning department at Brighton and Hove City Council.
Yesterday, at the council’s Planning Committee meeting at Hove Town Hall, two developers were given a deadline to reach an agreement with officials or lose their conditional planning permissions.
The two schemes – for 45 flats in total – were given conditional planning permission in June last year and October 2016 respectively.
The conditions included signing an agreement to include a total of 19 “affordable” flats but the agreements still haven’t been signed.
Planning officer Jonathan Puplett told Brighton and Hove City Council Planning Committee that there were no clear reasons for the delays – a point contested in each case by the developers’ agents.
Issues with banks and potential buyers were cited as reasons for the delay.
After months of effort from officers, agents finally got in touch on the day of the planning meeting, Mr Puplett said.
One agent said though that the council appeared to be ignoring relevant legal correspondence when saying that there had been no progress.
The agreements, if signed, would also mean a total of about £225,000 in developer contributions being paid to the council to spend on schools, transport and parks and open spaces.
After the meeting, Councillor Julie Cattell, who chairs the planning committee and has spoken about the need to tackle “land-banking” by developers, said: “We need housing and it’s important that applicants are focused on fulfilling their side of the bargain when they seek planning permission.”
Councillors were reluctant to turn down either application, instead opting to give the developers more time.
But if they fail to sign the agreements by Tuesday 7 August, they will be refused planning permission.