Developers who want to build 44 homes on the former Stirling MFI store site have been let off paying £800,000 to the council after arguing the bill would plunge the development further into the red.
The council’s planning panel narrowly approved an application by Allanwater Developments on Tuesday for two and three-storey flats and houses on the land off Maitland Crescent, St Ninians, which has been derelict for 15 years.
Planners had said given the scale, location and mix of residential units planned it would usually attract developer contributions for education, transport, waste, affordable housing and open space amounting to £623,425 - a number which rose to £833,584 at yesterday’s meeting after catchment area revisions were taken into account.
Most major developments would be expected to provide 25 per cent affordable housing, or provide a contribution to the council to provide it on an alternative site - which in this case should have amounted to almost £450,000.
The company claimed the land had been bought in 2007 prior to the property crash and they wouldn’t be making a profit from the scheme even once the payment to the council was waived.
It is not known how much was paid for the land but the developer’s position was supported by the district valuer who had independently assessed the viability of the scheme.
Yesterday, councillors voted by five votes to four to back council planners’ recommendation to approve the application, but said they were doing so “reluctantly” including panel chair SNP councillor Alasdair Macpherson and Tory group leader Councillor Neil Benny.
Councillor Macpherson said: “This site has been derelict for a long time and we have to put our faith in the robust process conducted by the district valuer.”
“I don’t think the developer should be rewarded for leaving the site derelict for as long as this,” said Councillor Benny, “but development of this site is long overdue”.
Council planner Charlotte Brown told the panel the amount of profit a site made was significant in their considerations because it affected viability which in turn “fundamentally affects delivery”.
SNP’s Maureen Bennison and Tory Douglas Dodds had wanted the application refused outright, while others including Jim Thomson (SNP) and Jeremy McDonald (Tory) had originally wanted to approve it conditional on at least some contributions being insisted upon.
Councillor Thomson had said while he respected the district valuer’s views he felt it wasn’t appropriate for Stirling Council to be out of pocket because of a loss making site.
A previous application for 52 homes by Allanwater Developments was rejected by the planning panel in 2018.
However, a series of plans had been brought forward since the closure of the MFI furniture store in 2003, none of which came to fruition.
Prior to the 2018 bid, Allanwater had sought to build 31 flats in two blocks, 12 terraced houses and nine detached houses on the site.
However, planners had issues with the design, parking layout, lack of multifunctional open space or commitment to off-site improvements, as well as lack of detail as to how the developer would meet the council’s required 25 per cent affordable housing element.
In 2018 senior planning officer Jane Brooks-Burnett had said the lack of information on developer contributions submitted with that application was one of the reasons it was recommended for refusal and there had been no supporting information to indicate the developer was willing to provide contributions for education, waste and roads.
Following the meeting, local councillor Bryan Flannagan said: “This site has been an eyesore for nearly 20 years. Finally getting it developed will be a relief for people in the area.
“However it is bad news that the developers have avoided making a contribution to affordable housing, schools and parks as is usually required. I hope they will do the right thing and choose to make some payment.”
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