Developer plans no affordable housing at former Southsea Debenhams store

NOT one affordable home will be included in the approved redevelopment of the former Debenhams store in Southsea into more than 100 flats.

By Josh Wright
Monday, 6th December 2021, 4:03 pm

A planning report says the developer, National Regional Property Group, will only need to provide a maximum financial contribution of just under £250,000 instead due to the limited profitability of the project.

Published ahead of next week's Portsmouth City Council planning committee meeting, it says: ‘The scheme, as projected, was agreed by the local planning authority not to yield normal and reasonable profit levels.

‘Therefore, and in accordance with national planning policy guidance, it was agreed that the development should not have to make affordable housing provision.’

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Debenhams, Palmerston Road, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (110419-72)

Councillors conditionally approved the scheme in January before final permission was given last month after legal agreements were completed. The committee asked for the update report as part of its decision.

It adds that a ‘review mechanism’ has been agreed as part of planning permission through which profit levels will be re-assessed once work starts on the development.

‘It is recognised that the actual development finances, which become realised many months or years after the calculations at planning application stage, may differ from the projections,’ it says.

But it adds that the cap on this contribution has been set at £249,000.

Any further funds deemed viable after the review would go towards the mitigation of nitrates created by the development.

Cal Corkery, the Labour group's opposition spokesman for housing, said work needed to be done to increase the number of affordable homes being built.

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‘The problem is a national one,’ he said. ‘It's a loophole created by the government to allow property developers to get out of affordable housing contributions.

‘We have seen lots of this in Portsmouth over the years that. It's a loophole that has to be closed.’

A council spokesman said its affordable housing policies were being reviewed as part of the process to create a new Local Plan.

‘Portsmouth has an identified need for more affordable housing in the next 15 years,’ they said.

‘While the draft (Local Plan) policy proposed a minimum requirement of 30 per cent affordable housing, the evidence recognises that this would be unaffordable for over half of market development in Portsmouth and instead recommended a 20 per cent requirement.

‘However, on balance, the council considered it would be preferable to set an affordable housing target that is more ambitious for the city. Views were therefore sought on a higher (30 per cent) requirement but with the flexibility of being subject to viability testing on a case by case basis.’

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