Questions over Westminster’s “£31m loss” on s106 payments

Labour Councillors have accused Westminster Council of allowing developers to “buy out” their on-site affordable homes obligations at a “cut price”, and losing out on a massive £31,130,387 as a result.

Labour’s Planning Spokesperson, Councillor Barbara Grahame, has written to the District Auditor to “draw his attention” to the alleged multi-million “loss” incurred by Westminster. The letter questions the acceptance of financial payments “less than required by the Council’s adopted Planning Policies”, in lieu of on-site affordable homes in relation to a number of recent planning applications dating from 14th May to 6th August this year.

Labour claims that over a full year, the financial loss to the Council could be “many tens of millions of pounds more”.

The correspondence details nine recent decisions taken by the Council’s Planning Applications Committee since May, including some of PCL’s most high-profile resi schemes. Here’s the full rundown and alleged shortfalls, according to Labour:

14th May 2013

  • 24 luxury apartments at 73 Great Peter Street, W1. Under Westminster Council’s agreed Planning Policy the applicants should have paid the Council £2,729,929 for not including any affordable housing on site. Instead, the Council accepted the applicant’s offer of £550,000. This was £2,179,929 less than required under the Council’s policy.
  • 42 luxury apartments at Grosvenor House Gardens, 35-37 Grosvenor Gardens, SW1. Under Westminster Council’s agreed Planning Policy the applicants should have paid the Council £10,230,755 for not including any affordable housing on site.  Instead, the Council accepted the applicant’s offer of £7,136,000. This was £3,094,755 less than required under the Council’s policy.

28th May 2013

  • 31 luxury apartments at 26 Chapter Street, SW1. Under Westminster Council’s agreed Planning Policy the applicants should have paid the Council £3,274,000 for not including any affordable housing on site. Instead, the Council accepted the applicant’s offer of £1,190,000. This was £2,084,000 less than required under the Council’s policy.

18th June 2013

  • 22 luxury apartments at 67 Tufton Street, SW1. Under Westminster Council’s agreed Planning Policy the applicants should have paid the Council £3,252,808 for not including any affordable housing on site.  Instead, the Council accepted the applicant’s offer of £2,100,000. This was £1,152,808 less than required under the Council’s policy.

25th June 2013

  • 6 luxury apartments at 10-12 Park Crescent, W1. Under Westminster Council’s agreed Planning Policy the applicants should have paid the Council £1,047,832 for not including any affordable housing on site.  Instead, the Council accepted the applicant’s offer of £697,000. This was £350,832 less than required under the Council’s policy

16th July 2013

  • 78 luxury apartments at 1 Palace Street and 1-3 Buckingham Gate which was previously an office building. Under Westminster Council’s agreed Planning Policy the applicants should have paid the Council £18,967,063 for not including any affordable housing on site.  Instead, the Council accepted the applicant’s offer of £8,680,000. This was £10,287,063 less than required under the Council’s policy.
  • 89 luxury apartments at 70-88 Oxford Street which was previously an office building. Under Westminster Council’s agreed Planning Policy the applicants should have paid the Council £9,782,000 for not including any affordable housing on site.  Instead, the Council accepted the applicant’s offer of £4,250,000. This was £5,532,000 less than required under the Council’s policy.
  • 31 luxury apartments at 56 Curzon Street which was previously an office building. Under Westminster Council’s agreed Planning Policy the applicants should have paid the Council £6,830,000 for not including any affordable housing on site.  Instead, the Council accepted the applicant’s offer of £5,062,000. This was £1,768,000 less than required under the Council’s policy.

6th August 2013

  • 42 luxury apartments at 29/30 Old Burlington Street and 22-27 Cork Street, W1. Under Westminster Council’s agreed Planning Policy the applicants should have paid the Council £10,681,000 for not including any affordable housing on site.  Instead, the Council accepted the applicant’s offer of £6,000,000. This was £4,681,000 less than required under the Council’s policy.

Councillor Barbara Grahame, Labour’s Planning Spokesperson said in the letter; “The Council is allowing applicants to “buy out” their on-site affordable homes obligations in the West End at a “cut price” and, as a result, has lost £31,130,387 in off-site affordable housing payments.

“If there were a surplus of affordable homes in the West End or in Westminster generally, the Council might have an argument for accepting less than is required by its Planning Policies. However, the reverse is true and there is a huge demand for affordable housing in the West End and in Westminster generally. Currently there are over 1,000 families registered on the Council’s Overcrowded families Waiting List.

“The Council calculates the off-site affordable housing contribution on the basis of a payment of £215,000 per unit. On this basis, the £31,130,387 lost by the Council could have built 144 new affordable homes in Westminster.”