Food Machinery 2000 Ltd, Comfortable Place, Kingsmead, Bath
The proposed site of development is the Food Machinery 200 brownfield site on Comfortable Place, situated within the Bath Conservation Area and World Heritage Site. The site was formerly in industrial use with a general building height of 1 ½ - 2 storeys; it is framed on either side with 3-4 storey development facing onto Lower Bristol Road, and directly overlooks the Western Riverside development to the south with clear views of the 9 storey landmark building at Royal View. Proposals for the 3-4 storey development of the site to deliver 25 flats with integrated on-site parking were granted planning permission in 2020 (see 18/00201/FUL). As part of proposals, it was secured via a Section 106 Agreement that development would include a minimum 30% affordable housing provision, to be delivered as 8 1-bed shared ownership flats (32% delivery of affordable housing).
BPT objected to the 2018 proposals on grounds of the excessive height, scale, and massing of development, poor articulation of the roofscape, and its failure to reference or reinforce local distinctiveness and character. We concluded that where the officer was minded to permit development, we emphasised that any use of the proposed housing units as short-term holiday lets or investment properties should be prohibited, to ensure development would contribute to meeting Bath's housing need.
As part of the original application, it was determined via the Viability Assessment that development would be capable of meeting the 30% affordable housing requirement, despite the applicant’s original Statement claiming that only 24% affordable housing could be provided. It is further worth noting that within the original Committee Report, the affordable housing provision was referenced as part of the general planning balance and the considered benefit of providing 25 homes in line with the council’s housing strategy.
BPT therefore has strong concerns about the proposed removal of all affordable housing from the scheme, despite being located within an area of required 30% provision which was secured as part of the original application. The Viability Statement indicates that there would be a 2.91% difference in the overall profit on GDV secured with affordable housing (17.09%) or without affordable housing (20%), given as a total difference in profit of £399,824 – it is unclear as to how the viability of the development is dependent on a difference in profit that only just exceeds the value of a single market value unit (given at £345,578-361,802).
The total costs are given at £5.477m, which we appreciate is an increase on the previously given cost of £4.36m in 2019; the increased cost is intended to be “reflective of the risk of developing the site for residential and based on the existing and the past use along with the sentiment of current forecast build cost inflation.” However, where material and build cost inflation is being experienced across the development and construction sector, this is not considered to be an exceptional build cost that would justify omission of affordable housing and a suitable contingency should have been built into the original Viability Statement to appropriately account for any anticipated risk through the build-out process.
We note that the average market rate as given in the Viability Statement is £569-592/ft2, significantly higher than the estimate originally given in 2019 by the council’s Viability Statement of £500/ft2 (see application 18/00201/FUL). This is despite the Council’s estimates being described as “over optimistic in a sticky market” (see email correspondence dated 18/04/2019, application 18/00201/FUL). Given the increase in /ft2 value, the overall value of the proposed market house offer (for 17 units) is therefore indicated to have increased from £5,900,000 to £6,150,626. Similarly, the total value of the affordable units has also increased from £1,320,000 to £1,620,372. Subsequently, the net profit of a mixed market/affordable development has also risen from £7,220,000 to £7,770,998.
The overall profit of the scheme (including affordable housing provision) would indicate a slight reduction of £21,936 from the council’s original estimate of £1,350,000 to £1,328,064; however, there would be a marked increase beyond the profit that was originally agreed in 2019 to £1,727,888 where the affordable provision would be omitted.
We therefore maintain strong concerns regarding the reasoning given for the loss of affordable housing and do not consider the reasoning within the Viability Statement to be robust or to align with the previous findings of the 2019 Viability Statement, in which a profit of £1,350,000 was considered to be viable with development delivery.
BPT is generally opposed to the loss of affordable housing. Where brownfield sites within the city are secured for housing development, it is paramount that these are used to secure the maximum viable amount of affordable housing to meet much-needed demand and address Bath’s affordable housing shortfall. We do not consider it acceptable that affordable housing provision should be designed out at a later stage once planning permission has been secured.
We therefore maintain proposals would be contrary to Policy CP9 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan and should be refused or withdrawn.