A petition is calling on full disclosure when developers say they cannot afford to meet affordable housing targets in Peterborough.
The petition by Alan Gasparutti calls for Peterborough City Council to “require developers to make their viability assessments public if they claim they cannot meet council targets of affordable housing in new developments.”
In September 2015, Lands Improvement Holdings was told by councillors that it no longer needed to make sure 15 per cent of the 350 homes it was building at the former district hospital site were ‘affordable’ after the firm said it had run into money difficulties.
And in July, Persimmon Homes was granted planning permission to build another 153 homes in Cardea, of which only five per cent needed to be affordable because the development would otherwise not be commercially viable, the company claimed.
The Peterborough Telegraph asked Peterborough City council if there was a legal reason why viability assessments from developers were not made public by the authority when planning decisions are debated at public meetings.
A council spokesman said: “Whilst a local authority can release information it is able to withhold information if the public interest in maintaining the confidentiality outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
“The public interest here means the public good, not what is of interest to the public, and not the private interests of the requester.
“A summary of a developer’s viability statement is included in our public planning reports. If a request to see a full viability assessment is made, the council would apply the above test in considering whether or not to make the information public.
“If the planning committee requests more information they would go into a closed session where the full document, including commercially sensitive information, would be explained to members and they would have the opportunity to discuss this with the developer, ahead of their final decision on the development in question.
“As the discussion could involve additional commercially sensitive material it would not be possible to know in advance if this should be made public or not so the committee would have to hear this in closed session.”
The petition can be viewed here.