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New Moor Lane flats given go-ahead as developer agrees to £600k payment

Posted on - 29th March, 2024 - 9:08am | Author - | Posted in - Friargate, Housing, Politics, Preston City Centre, Preston Council, Preston News, Redevelopment, University campus
Artist impressions of how the new Moor Lane and Walker Street tower block will look
Artist impressions of how the new Moor Lane and Walker Street tower block will look

A wrangle over the volume of affordable housing that should be generated by what will be one of the tallest apartment blocks in Preston has been resolved.

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A deal has been struck which will see Preston City Council handed more than £600,000 by the developer behind a 19-storey tower set to be built in the university quarter, on the former gas training centre site at the junction of Walker Street and Moor Lane.

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The cash will be used to fund affordable housing on other plots within Preston to compensate for the fact that there will be none with the 120-flat scheme itself.

Read more: Estate made up entirely of affordable homes set for suburban Preston

The hexagonal-shaped building – which has a five-storey adjoining section and will be made up of 104 two-bedroomed and 16 one-bedroomed homes – was granted permission by the city council last July.

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At that point, it had been proposed as a ‘build-to-rent’ development, meaning tenants would be offered leases of at least three years – and all of the flats would remain available for rent for 30 years before they could be sold.

Portergate Developments (Preston) Limited – the company behind the blueprint – successfully argued that the project would not be financially viable if it were forced to meet a planning quota that would usually require a fifth of the homes within a build-to-rent scheme to be made available for ‘affordable rent’, which is at least 20 percent lower than market rates.

By November, the proposal was back before the council’s planning committee after Portergate sought to shift from the original rental vision for the site to one where the flats would all be offered for sale, after claiming its previous plan was “too restrictive”.

CGI - View across University Square
CGI – View across University Square

Councillors gave the go-ahead to the change – and the developer once again persuaded the authority that the scheme would be unviable if it was required to ensure 30 percent of the homes fell into the affordable housing category, as usually demanded by the city’s planning policies on open market developments.

However, the authority said its approval was dependent on agreeing a so-called “review mechanism” with Portergate, so that if the block generated a greater profit than was then being forecast, the city council could claw back a financial contribution that would be used to provide affordable housing elsewhere in Preston.

Although similar mechanisms have been agreed on other developments in the city that have been assessed as financially unviable, the latest meeting of the planning committee heard that negotiations over the arrangement for the Portergate scheme had become “protracted” because of their “complexity”.

In order to break the deadlock over a future review, the authority suggested an alternative deal under which the developer will pay £604,531 into a pot that the city council holds to fund affordable housing – a figure which equates to a 15 percent cash contribution, compared to the 30 percent that would be required under normal circumstances.

Read more: Preston City Council’s plan to return social housing to the city

Planning committee member David Borrow said the arrangement meant the council now had a guaranteed amount, rather than one which would have depended on the outcome of a future viability review – a situation which he said had “advantages”. The committee approved the deal – which had been put forward by the authority’s planning officers – meaning the apartment development can now go ahead.

However, as no review will now take place, the potential 30 percent contribution that may have been sought if the scheme had proved much more profitable than currently expected will not be achieved.

Read more: Empty house in Plungington one of 36 renovated and brought back into use

What the developers say

Anthony Jackson, Chairman of Portergate Developments (Preston) Ltd, told Blog Preston: “We are extremely proud and excited to finally get planning permission for our major development on Moor Lane. It has taken us seven years of hard work and negotiation to get it through planning but now we have the opportunity to create something very special in Preston.

“As part of this we will make a payment of £600,000 towards providing affordable housing for the city. We look forward to seeing it spent wisely and hope that is used to really make a difference to the social housing needs in the city.

“We are looking forward to creating quality apartments in the heart of Preston’s growing university quarter and are excited to be able to help the city grow in its ambitions to cement it’s place as the North West’s third city.

“When we first built Friargate Court we wanted it to be the very best student accommodation in Preston, and we achieved that. We have similar ambitions for Moor Lane and want to be able to provide the city with superior apartments providing a high quality of accommodation for professionals, something which we feel that the city has been lacking in.”

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Additional reporting by Ed Walker

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