Go-ahead for 335-home Sheffield build-to-rent scheme despite lack of evidence on need

Plans for a 335-home build-to-rent scheme in Sheffield have been approved, despite a recognition from planners that the council currently does not have 'any evidence of need' for such developments.

A visualisation of the finished development (Pic: PLATFORM_)
A visualisation of the finished development (Pic: PLATFORM_)

Members of Sheffield City Council's planning committee approved a full planning application for the development at a meeting earlier this week.

The proposal would see the erection of a five-to-14 storey mixed-use development comprising the 335 homes, ground floor commercial space, landscaping and car parking. The development would occupy an existing car park site between Sylvester Street and Mary Street.

According to a planning report, new Planning Policy Guidance (PPG), published in September, "describes build-to-rent as ‘a distinct asset class within the private rented sector, places new emphasis on considering the need for build-to-rent homes and advises that, if a need is identified, local planning authorities ‘should include a plan policy setting out their approach to promoting and accommodating build to rent’".

The report acknowledged "that there are currently few build-to-rent schemes in Sheffield, and that, this being a relatively new sub-market in private rented residential stock in the UK, we don’t currently have any evidence of need".

However, the report said, a forthcoming strategic housing market assessment "would take account of build-to-rent and inform any policy requirements for the local plan".

The report said that, "given the very recent clear steer from government – that the affordable housing provision in build-to-rent schemes should be the provision of units for affordable private rent – the applicant was asked whether they would consider providing some affordable units for rent".

The document said the developer "explained that their build-to-rent model does not offer any discounted market rent" and the "discounted rental model is largely untested outside of London and … the risks associated with it, combined with the limited ability of the scheme to support any form of ‘affordable’ provision, make the provision of on-site discounted market units untenable".

The report said that, in the absence of affordable units for rent, a "one-off financial contribution is an alternative" and "sensitivity testing" carried out by the council had indicated that an affordable housing contribution in the range of £51,265 to £322,235 could be provided.

The applicant had initally offered a £51,265 contribution towards affordable housing. However, a separate report to the planning committee said that the applicant later made a revised offer of £322,235 towards affordable housing, "which is at the top end of the sensitivity testing range". 

DLP Planning acted as planning consultancy for developer PLATFORM_.

Town and Country Planning Association report earlier this month found that only two per cent of councils report that developments in their area meet their local plan affordable housing targets all of the time.

This article was updated on 22/10/18 to correct an error which said that developer had offered the £51,265 affordable housing contribution rather than the higher £322,235 figure. 

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