Harry Redknapp offers Portsmouth City Council £400,000 to ditch cheap homes

1/6/2011 (NEWS)''The old Savoy site in Southsea.''Picture: Sarah Standing (111996-7715)
1/6/2011 (NEWS)''The old Savoy site in Southsea.''Picture: Sarah Standing (111996-7715)
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HARRY Redknapp has offered Portsmouth City Council £400,000 to be allowed to develop an empty seafront site – without low-cost homes.

The former Pompey manager already has permission to build 92 flats at the old Savoy Buildings in Southsea.

But planning rules mean 28 of the properties must be affordable homes.

Mr Redknapp’s firm, Pierfront Developments, doesn’t want them included, and asked late last month if it could develop the site with no affordable properties.

This was turned down by the city’s planning committee on June 22.

Now Mr Redknapp’s firm has offered to stump up £400,000 for them to be built elsewhere in the city.

But critics say the firm should not be allowed to sidestep the housing agreement it made when it bought the site in 2007.

Eastney and Craneswater, Cllr Terry Hall, said: ‘Hundreds of hard-working people across the city are desperately trying to find a home.

‘To allow this developer to get away without making any contribution would be immoral.’

She added: ‘They’re seafront flats and would fetch at least £100,000 each so I don’t think it’s enough.’

Pierfront, which has already paid the council £100,000 as part of a legal agreement over the site, says the affordable homes rule means it would end up losing money.

If it can prove the development is not viable with low-cost homes, then the city council can consider accepting money for them to be built elsewhere.

The council says the cash Pierfront has offered would pay for just five affordable homes to be built.

Tory Cllr Donna Jones, a member of the planning committee, added: ‘This proves we were right not to let the previous offer, which made no provision for affordable housing, go ahead.

‘We must look at the figures to see whether this is good enough, but it’s better than what went before.’

Managing director of Southsea’s Bernards estate agents Jason Parker is Mr Redknapp’s representative.

He said: ‘There’s a perception Pierfront’s owner is a wealthy man.

‘But this site is losing money, and he’s going to work to keep paying it off.

‘This is a significant offer because he wants to start work, and cannot do so if the 28 affordable flats are included.’

Offer is ‘a planning first’ for city council

THIS is the first time the city council’s planning department has been offered cash with which to build affordable housing elsewhere.

The council’s assistant head of planning, Claire Upton-Brown, said the global economic crash had changed the way developers approach building deals.

She said: ‘We’ve not had an offer like this before, but Pierfront Development used valuers’ figures, confirmed by our valuers, to show how things have changed since the economic crisis.

‘When they bought the site, their profit margins were much higher than at present.’

In the wake of the crisis, Pierfront lost backing from banks, and was forced to re-evaluate its scheme.

Ms Upton-Brown said: ‘The crisis has changed the profitability of development.

‘Affordable housing is important to the council.

‘We look at cases where the profit margin is 17 to 23 per cent.

‘That’s because anything higher than that will develop with no problem, anything lower won’t be backed, but that range means the deal may hang in the balance.’

The Savoy Buildings, built in 1929, had been empty since 2006, when they were used as Time and Envy nightclub, before they were demolished two years ago.