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Viability assessment

What is a viability assessment?

Viability is a highly technical planning issue that is taken into account when considering planning applications. Viability considers the ability of development to come forward from a financial point of view. To ensure that the information provided by planning applicants is as accessible and transparent as possible the Council has committed to publishing viability assessments publically and recouping the cost of assessing viability from the applicant. Our formal motion on the topic is below.

Openness and transparency in planning application viability assessments

With Plan for Homes 3 agreed at Cabinet and the Plymouth and South West Devon Joint Local Plan adopted, we want to build the right homes for the right people in the right place.

To meet future housing needs, Plymouth needs to:

  • deliver a wide choice of high quality homes which give more people a chance to own a home
  • meet needs for social and rented housing
  • create sustainable, inclusive and mixed communities.

Ensuring that affordable housing is maximised from developers is vital. This is in accordance with policies SPT3 and DEV07 of the Plymouth and South West Joint Local Plan.

To achieve this, the planning system should be open, transparent and understandable. Everyone involved in the planning process (including local communities) should know how affordable housing levels have been calculated. This ensures:

  • there is trust in the system
  • developers are not unduly maximising profit at the cost of the community and social obligations

The 2018 National Planning Policy Framework states that:

“Any viability assessment should be supported by appropriate available evidence informed by engagement with developers, landowners, and infrastructure and affordable housing providers.... Any viability assessment should be prepared on the basis that it will be made publicly available other than in exceptional circumstances. Even in those circumstances an executive summary should be made publicly available.”

It is important that this is proactively delivered and that proposed levels of affordable housing in developments are fully and properly justified. We therefore instruct the Strategic Director for Place to:

  1. Publish all viability assessments together with planning applications on our planning portal website, except in exceptional circumstances.
  2. Publish our formal review of the applicant’s viability report in the same way.
  3. Require the applicant to fund reasonable costs associated with the viability assessment. These costs are outlined in the Planning and Infrastructure fees policies.

Proposed by Councillor Bill Stevens by email 10 March 2019

Seconded by Councillor Jonny Morris by email 10 March 2019

The GOV.UK website has more information about viability assessments