Saturday, 21 March 2015

Ffos Las homes and another Section 106 agreement 'revisited'

The Ffos Las racecourse in Trimsaran has been one of the jewels in Meryl's crown and, over the past few years planning permission has been granted by the council for a whopping 528 homes on the largely greenbelt area surrounding the racecourse.

The 528 home development was roughly split into two halves. Permission for the first was granted in 2009 and the second wave of 280 homes was granted in 2012. One of the reasons put forward by Ffos Las Ltd was that permission for these 280 homes was essential for the future viability of the racecourse.

The council duly obliged and Ffos Las Ltd were given three years, as is usual, to submit full plans and five years to start the construction.

There was also a Section 106 planning obligation that 15% of the homes were to be affordable and £100,000 to be used for community facilites, eg play areas, within this large development.

Over the years Carmarthenshire Council has been fairly casual over the requirements for affordable dwellings from developers. At the Stradey site there was no requirement at all for the 300-odd home development. An arrangement described as 'unusual' by the head of planning himself.

Ffos Las Ltd applied late last year to extend the time limit to begin this second phase of 280 homes. Not particularly a problem perhaps.

However, buried within the application was a request for the authority to reconsider the S106 agreement, whether this pertains to the affordable housing or the community contribution, or both, is unknown. No details are provided but Ffos Las submitted a 'Viability appraisal prepared by Savills which demonstrates that the proposed development is not viable with the current planning obligations'

Anyone, of course, can comment on a planning application but given it's title; 'Extend time period within which reserved matters applications may be submitted' this one appears to relate entirely to the extension of time, one has to dig a little further to find the reference to the S106 agreement.

Also, sufficient documentation must be made available for interested parties to make an informed comment. A Freedom of Information request for the 'Viability Appraisal' was refused under commercial confidentiality.

With Carmarthenshire Council ranking second from bottom in the provision of affordable housing according to figures released last month, any variation on a S106 obligation, in a development of this size is of great significance.

The application has yet to be decided but it would appear that this should be a contender for a decision by the planning committee rather than through delegated power, so at least, if nothing else, the proposed S106 'variations' can be checked out. 


Anonymous said...

When I was a young[ish], innocent county councillor years ago I visited Ffos Las on a formal site visit where the owner pleaded poverty and that he needed to build houses or the race course would fail. It struck me then that the areas reserved for housing had not been made good after the opencast as agreed, with little topsoil in evidence, unlike the lush racecourse appearance. It struck me then that building closely packed homes would not only provide income but save him a fortune in imported topsoil. These desolate, isolated sites without shops and community facilities seem more and more popular with builders. I was told Ffos Las was bought very cheaply as the buyer promised to restore the whole site area both environmentally and with rights of way, a pretty espensive project. I wonder who polices these agreements or are they also like 106 agreements, negotiable after the fact? As to the new homes'sewage disposal, I have my doubts about that too.

Redhead said...

There are companies that, for a hefty fee, specialise in getting a developer's S106 obligations struck out. The companies are very successful.

Cneifiwr said...

Tim Minogue, Private Eye's "Rotten Boroughs" editor, has seen more council scandals than most of us have had hot dinners. He summed things up rather neatly recently on Twitter:

"This is supposed to be a democracy. My job leads me to conclude our society is run by and for property developers. Is there a name for that?"

Evan Owen - Snowdonia said...

It is reasonable for developers to make a profit, 6% on affordable dwellings and 20% on the rest, that is what PINS has agreed at appeal. After decades of neglecting social housing because councils saw S106 as their panacea we need to have a rethink. When I bought my first house in 1976 there weren't any occupancy restrictions, now they are everywhere and they are causing misery.

Evan Owen - Snowdonia said...

I forgot to mention that Carmarthen are probably spending less on dealing with S106 problems than the likes of Gwynedd or Powys.

Anonymous said...

As a resident in the area, where are our facilities, Meryl and her promise, that we would benefit. Can anyone tell me who has benefited. As all the local facilities have closed. The shop in carway, closed, the social club in carway closed, the post office in carway closed - so tell how do these new homes benefit the community another strain on the village, Has the school benefited no - no more children than there were before -