I went to the first public meeting, since they started 5 years ago, of the Greater Norwich Development Partnership (GNDP) yesterday (Thursday 15th Dec) at the Council chambers in Norwich City Hall. Let me set the scene…..
Messrs Proctor and Kirby sat on the bench used by, I assume, the leader of the Council, which meant that they sent a very strong signal that they were in charge. Whilst I guess that Proctor could sit in the Mayors chair, as Chair of the GNDP, I’m not sure in what capacity Kirby was operating in? It was a curious mix of elected officer and part funded official both of whom are the main architects of the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) operating in tandem although Kirby said very little. Actually the net result was both of them looked very isolated on the top table and they both looked quite small against the splendour of the chamber.
There were two attendees from SNUB (myself and Richard), two from the Green Party (Denise Carlo and Andrew Boswell), Chris Hill from the EDP (see his article at http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/norwich_ndr_cash_only_the_first_step_1_1155238) and two other members of the public.
On the floor of the chamber were contingents from South Norfolk (sat on the right), Norwich City (sat in the centre) and Broadland (sat on the left). Must be the first time that Norwich City has taken a central position! Each of the delegations consisted of a mix of officials and officers from each of the councils.
From what I could see the only representative from Norfolk County was the leader, Derrick Murphy, and there appeared to be no representative from the Broads Authority. Mental note; must try and understand or ask the Broads Authority what their role is in the GNDP?
The first utterance from the Chair was a self-congratulatory statement about the funding for the NDR that had been announced the previous day. They were very smug as one could expect! Although on member, from Norwich City, cautioned that this was merely the “end of the beginning” rather than the “start of the end”.
They then went onto to the legal challenge of the JCS by SNUB and merely stated that they expected a decision early in January. There was no discussion about what to do if they lose and as the next meeting of the GNDP is not until 15th March they clearly expect to win. Arrogant sods! However Kirby did wave a piece of paper in Neville Chamberlain style, which was not in the public pack of papers, and I will make a note to get a copy of the note.
There was then a series of discussions, which were of a technical nature with planning officers making presentations to the GNDP. Questions were asked and clarification sought by the South Norfolk contingent (John Fuller their leader was the main protagonist) and it made me wonder about the extent of the internal feuding between the members of the GNDP. Were they on their best behaviour as members of the public were in attendance for the first time? There was certainly an undertone particularly when the distribution of the Community Investment Levy (CIL) was discussed.
Another interesting discussion was around the financial viability of the JCS. This was demonstrated by an example of a hypothetical 250-house development. Not sure why 250 was used as the majority of the planned developments in the JCS are for much greater size than that.
Anyway the discussion was based on what the Residual Land Value for the development would be. This is the way that developers work out whether it would be financially viable to build the proposed houses. This is very important calculation and the national benchmark agreed by all key stakeholders is £500,000 per hectare, which equates to 10,000 square metres i.e. the equivalent of a square, each side having a length of 100 m. This is the size of an international Rugby Union pitch like the one at Twickenham.
The GNDP use figures from the Homes and Community Association, which showed that the JCS has a residual land value of £725,053 per hectare once all of the costs and CIL is taken into consideration. This clearly makes it viable and attractive for the developers and shows that for 250 houses there would be the following affordable houses:
1 Bed Flat 18
2 Bed Flat 13
2 Bed House 30
3 Bed House 15
4 Bed House 7
TOTAL 83 units representing 33%
However 13 of these houses (5 x 2bed, 5 x 3bed and 3 x 4bed) will be for intermediate use that is sold on an equity share basis and not real social housing. This makes real affordable social housing for rent at 28%.
The developer’s figures show that with this level of affordable housing and their own estimate of costs (much higher than the HCA estimate) the Residual Land Value would equate to £312,968 per hectare and therefore not viable. This means that no developer would build these houses unless there was a drop of the affordable housing to 18% that would result in the following housing mix:
1 Bed Flat 11
2 Bed Flat 8
2 Bed House 13
3 Bed House 9
4 Bed House 4
TOTAL 45 units representing 18%
If you then apply the same ratio of intermediate use as above the real number of affordable social housing for rent stands at 34 units that is 14% of the total build.
The developers are therefore saying that they would only build these houses with 33% affordable housing if there were an increase in house values of circa 7%. The latest forecast from the Royal Charted Institute of Surveyors (RICS) is for at best an increase of 2.5%! The planners from the GNDP could only say that Norwich is better than the average in terms of housing prices and they would expect house prices to rise more than 2.5%.
Interesting and disappointing that the EDP did not pick up on this even though I mentioned it to Chris Hill at the end of the meeting.
The final part of the meeting was a briefing from the newly formed Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) formed in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft which is being led by Suffolk County Council. The spokesperson stated that there was Growing Places Fund that had £12m available for infrastructure and jobs creation schemes. A small team had been set up to prioritise applications for this fund which may also include cross border initiatives from the LEP’s in Cambridgeshire and Essex.
A couple of other interesting snippets.
The admission that there would be severe cash flow challenges as the JCS was front-loaded with costs before the CIL starts to become income. And…
Developers have to build garages to sell houses! So much for a sustainable development with potential residents using public transport and not having garages built. Remember the plan to pay for on site parking to discourage car ownership!