As the best viability consultants on Wellington Street (a very short street in Leicester) we are often asked “where next for viability?” Well now the politicians are getting their yellowed, vote-seeking teeth into it, who knows.
Politicians will do anything to get their name in the press. Even if it means making themselves look less intelligent than amoeba. A classic case this week involved a local Councillor claiming that a piece of land sold by the council for development for less than £100,000 was in fact worth “at least £10m”. Well it may have been if the council had the funds, foresight and will to carry out the amazing development that has just been completed on the site. But they don’t. They want to have your cake and eat it – after you have paid for it. And then sue you because they ate it too quickly and were sick.
Inevitably the bandwagon is getting more crowded. Headlines about greedy developers using “loop-holes” to avoid affordable housing proliferate. Politicians and pressure groups lead the way, enjoying a bit of developer bashing. Remember that scandalous, sensationalist under-researched clap-trap that Shelter produced last year?
Local politicians are putting impossible pressure on officers to resist genuine viability issues supported by a raft of national and local policy. And they have a new ally – the DV – who seem to think (amongst other things) that a profit margin of 12.5% is sufficient for a speculative flat development in a secondary area of Derby. Really? And don’t forget – you as the developer paid for that opinion.
As a result it is taking longer and longer to agree viability. Four weeks used to be enough. Double that – at least. If you have a site that has a viability issue get your consultant in early – preferably well before you submit the application. And make sure any submission is with the council the minute the application is validated. On the bizarre assumption that the application is determined on planning grounds within the statutory period, you may also have a chance of agreeing the viability without the need for a time extension.
But don’t hold your breath.