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Viability Studies Are Often Not Viable, Says Aston Mead

Land agent Aston Mead says that a system which enables councils to charge developers twice for studies into the viability of their building projects is unfair, can cause months of delays, and discriminates against SME companies.

Currently, planning authorities can set an affordable housing contribution for a new scheme, which developers can challenge by commissioning an independent viability study. But even if the report comes out in the developer’s favour, the council can commission a second study, which also has to be paid for by the developer, even if it reaches the same conclusion.

Aston Mead land & planning director Charles Hesse says: “This situation is absurd. Developers are making little enough profit at the moment without having to pay the council to duplicate the work they’ve just carried out. What’s more, even if the result of the second report mirrors the first, they can’t claim the cost of the study back. Not only does this involve further delay, they are left paying twice for the council to come up with a conclusion they had already reached in the first place.

“Whilst this is something that the big companies may be able to shrug off without concern, it puts a real strain on SME developers, who are struggling in the current climate anyway.”

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