Leigh London Road flats developer’s bid angers councillors

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ANGRY councilors believe they are being “taken for a ride” after a developer applied to remove an affordable housing element when building new housing in Leigh.

Plans for two blocks of 30 flats were approved in 2017, but the developer now wants to waive an S106 agreement – which requires six of the flats to be affordable housing – in exchange for paying the council £100,000.

Councilors on the development control committee were told by officers that keeping the affordable element would mean the £12.5m development on London Road was no longer financially viable.

They also heard that no social housing provider could be found to take over the homes.

Officers recommended the committee approve the application, but Matt Dent, councilor for the Kursaal ward, said the council was “being taken for a ride”.

He said: “This is a situation that I think comes up very often. We have permission that was agreed with an S106 agreement to provide a certain number of affordable homes.

“The developer then comes back and says, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do that, there’s some money here.’

“£100,000 is a fraction of the present value that affordable housing would contribute to our community. It seems we have come to so many meetings where the applications are in front of us and the line from the officers is “There’s nothing you can do, bend over backwards to get the position”.

Mr Dent added: “I don’t think it’s good enough. What’s the point of having policies about the number of affordable homes that developments should provide if we’re not going to stand by them?

“It’s pretty clear to me that developers don’t see them as important as policies. They are just a box-ticking exercise.”

Mr Dent apologized after accusing officers of failing to do all they could to ensure council policies were followed.

Peter Wexham, councilor for Leigh borough, agreed: “Once they’ve got planning permission, they start cutting S106 deals to try to get out of social housing.

“They whittle it down until you end up with nothing. I’m so tired of developers doing this over and over again.”

Councilors voted unanimously to postpone the application while a review of the scheme’s viability was carried out.

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