Small scale builders more likely to escape full financial responsibilities than big developers in Barnsley

Small scale housing developers are less likely to be able to meet financial demands imposed on them by Barnsley Council than their large corporate counterparts, the authority has revealed.

Tuesday, 21st May 2019, 8:35 pm
Updated Friday, 31st May 2019, 2:08 pm

Barnsley Council makes a series of charges against all but the smallest builders, to ensure the costs to society of building new homes comes out of the developers’ profits, rather than being left as a burden for the local authority.

But the council waives some of the charges where those behind building projects can demonstrate the scheme would not be viable if they had to meet all of the council’s demands.

That loophole has allowed a scheme of 28 new homes, on a site off Saunderson Road in Penistone, to win approval despite providing fewer than the eight houses expected to be given over for use as ‘affordable homes’.

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Some councillors on the authority’s planning board questioned how builders developing seemingly lucrative sites were unable to make the profits needed to cover the council’s charges.

The Penistone development will generate £160,000 to cover to cost of making space in schools for pupils who will live there, with another £150,000 to go towards improving ‘green’ spaces in the neighbourhood.

Under council rules, 30 per cent of homes in Penistone should go to provide affordable homes, for those who would otherwise struggle in the housing market, meaning eight would have been needed.

But planners accepted a ‘viability study’ from the applicant which showed the scheme would not be profitable unless the figure was dropped to six, an amendment accepted.

However, Coun Dave Griffin said: “I wonder what it is about this valuable, flat, site that means the landowner and developer will not make sufficient profit if they build eight, rather than six, affordable homes?”

Head of planning, Joe Jenkinson, told councillors research had been carried out on the financial consequences of building estates of 20, 50 and 100 homes on both green belt and brownfield sites in Barnsley.

“The report showed, in the main, it is harder to deliver the full suite (of charges) on 20 dwellings than 100 dwellings, because with larger schemes you get economies of scale.

“We have seen schemes with 20 or 30 where we have not quite met 30 per cent.

“There is a recognition in this higher level piece of work that smaller sites can be more challenging, you are not always dealing with PLC house builders.

“We are at 21 per cent (affordable housing) which is a much greater percentage than we would be asking for in the east of the borough.”

The council has adopted a sliding scale of demands for affordable homes, with a higher percentage required from developments in the west of Barnsley, where property prices are highest and difficulties surrounding affordability more severe than east Barnsley, where prices are cheaper.