Firm behind plan for 94 flats in Hove may have to pay council £1m

A new block of flats could mean an extra £1 million for Brighton and Hove City Council to spend if the scheme is granted permission by a government planning inspector.

A visualisation of the proposed flats looking along Cromwell Road, in Hove, from the west

The scheme will be decided by an inspector because the council turned down plans by RKO Developments to build 94 flats on the corner of Cromwell Road and Palmeira Avenue, in Hove.

RKO appealed – and with the hearing just two weeks away, the council’s Planning Committee was asked to approve a draft deal for “developer contributions” in case the appeal was allowed.

The £32 million scheme was refused planning permission in September last year because of the size of the proposed building and the lack of “affordable” homes. The plans involved demolishing five existing Edwardian houses.

Today (Wednesday 1 December), when the Planning Committee met at Hove Town Hall, Labour councillor Nick Childs criticised the lack of affordable housing.

He asked how the developer would manage to pay the community infrastructure levy (CIL), which was likely to total about £1 million, but could not include affordable housing.

A planning official said that a “viability” assessment forecast a £2.6 million deficit for the scheme, making it financially unviable to include affordable housing or to pay the council money a “commuted sum”.

The commuted sum would go towards the cost of building affordable housing elsewhere – and a figure of £345,000 had originally been suggested.

Councillor Childs said: “It’s odd that the developer or any private company would want to proceed with something which has a £2.6 million deficit. It’s very strange indeed.

“I just wonder if there’s been some creative accountancy here and how long that deficit will last once that application is permitted or otherwise.”

He was told that developers were allowed to include a “reasonable profit level” in the viability assessment.

A visualisation of the RKO Developments plan for 94 flats in Cromwell Road, Hove, on the corner of Palmeira Avenue, seen from Holland Road

Conservative councillor Carol Theobald was also unhappy with the lack of affordable housing.

She said: “These developers are paying too much for the land. It’s going from five households to 94 units and they cannot afford affordable housing. It doesn’t add up.”

If the appeal succeeds, the committee voted to seek

  • a review process before the flats are occupied to see whether it would be viable to provide affordable housing or a “commuted sum”
  • a contribution of £26,100 towards employment and training
  • an artistic component to the scheme worth £32,300
  • the replacement of every tree lost with three new ones

If the planning appeal is granted, councillors were told that RKO Developments would have three years to start work.

  1. Rick Pringle Reply

    There is no such thing as ‘affordable housing’ in this city. Even a tiny bedsit in a damp mouldy basement costs around £700 a month or more.
    Reading the article it is surprising anything gets built in the city. That’s why we are still stuck with the antiquated King Alfred.

    • Chaz. Reply

      Indeed, but sadly all the students keep flooding in.
      As long as they are encouraged by the Greenies, nothing will change.

      • Some Guy Reply

        You realise that – were the universities to close – our city could end up like Blackpool with nothing to attract outside talent or money?
        That would certainly lower property prices, but it would have other effects too.

  2. Dave Jones Reply

    So basically, if the elected council, on behalf of the electorate, reject a proposal of housing that excludes all but the wealthiest, the developers are legally entitled to offer a £1Million bribe, and then the council will do what the developers say!
    And they wonder why 75% people don’t vote in council elections…..

  3. Rick Pringle Reply

    The developers already had jumped through all the hoops and hurdles before the Planning Committee convened. At that point the council’s own professional planning officers – the ones that know planning law – reccommended to grant planning consent. What happened was that the chairman remarked earlky on that there had been 200 objections. Local people and neighbours had every right to expressing their views and protect their own interests, of course. Though there is a group that objects to nearly all applications of this nature regardless of merit.
    The upshot was the application was refused.
    When asked by officers on what grounds, the Committee then adjourned to decide what the grounds were!

    As to the cost of housing, welcome to planet Earth. Here’s an economics lesson for the Labour councillor. It is simply a matter of supply and demand. We either increase supply or reduce demand. Replacing five homes with 94 increases supply.
    Labour should have spent their time in office abandoning the right to buy council homes and started building new reasonably priced rental homes. They could have reinstated the rent tribunals; another opportunity missed and I doubt there’ll ever be another.

    If any political party was serious about addressing the housing issue, they’d have stopped buy-to-rent which allows landlords to compete with first time buyers. The retirees with big pensions win every time and young families are forced to rent the properties they would otherwise buy. Increase Capital Gains Tax on rented properties to 80% to remove any incentive to buy housing as an investment, and introduce triple council tax on vacant properties.

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