On the face of it, this report about a planning permission refusal for city centre apartments, in the Bradford Telegraph &Argus, could convey the idea that the Local Planning Authority is, at last, ‘standing up’ to developers’. However, the comments reveal a more inauspicious situation.
In 2008, 362 apartments in Bradford centre got the planning go ahead, after meeting all the criteria; including the important delivery of social housing. When this was reviewed in 2012 by the Local Planning Authority (LPA), suddenly the scheme failed to meet required standards. How could this be so? Had they changed the materials or the design? Was there no longer a need for housing in Bradford? Was there no longer the desire to use brownfield land and encourage the regeneration of the city centre?
The answer to all of the above is, no. The only change between 2008 and 2012 is that, owing to economic decline, the developers have seen a drop in the land value of almost 50%. Therefore, they requested that the Section 106 agreement be moderated down by 33%, on just two of the obligations, in order to make the development economically viable.
These apartments would be situated close to retail and office employment; they are within a short stroll of shops, entertainment and the public transport hubs of Forster Square railway station and the Interchange rail and bus station. Bradford, it is said, needs more housing: and here, is the ‘gift’ of an unused city centre plot, which meets the crieria of sustainability. Yet, suddenly the scheme is no longer acceptable to planners. Why is this? The only change seems to be the payment of section 106 money to Bradford Council?
Should we be asking more questions about Bradford’s development criteria and their use of 106 money?