A BLOCK of 21 flats to be built on a main route into Penarth has been approved – despite the developer having to pay only some of the financial contributions asked for.

The new four-storey block of flats will be built on the former Monty Smith garage in Windsor Road.

The Vale council’s planning committee approved the new block of flats despite protests about a lack of affordable housing or financial contributions from the developer.

The council had originally asked for nine of the flats to be affordable, £48,300 towards sustainable transport, £249,309 for primary and secondary education in the area and £56,028 towards public open space, as well as 1 per cent of the build costs going towards public art.

But developer X-Stream Properties Ltd will only have to pay £54,172 towards off-site affordable housing after it gave the council an assessment, verified by the district valuer, claiming the development would be unviable if it paid the full contributions.  Cllr Neil Thomas told the Vale committee on September 25 the value of the nine affordable flats would have been around £691,000 – which means “over £1m is not coming to Penarth”.

He said: “This council and planning committee is here to represent our residents, yet time and time again we are forced into impossible positions due to viability assessments.”

Cllr Jonathan Bird, chairman of the committee, said he shared Cllr Thomas’ frustrations but there is an “extremely complex way in which this is dealt with”.

“We cannot say we’re giving money away, it’s money we never had,” he said.

“Without it the development would never go ahead and we’re left with a derelict site on a gateway into Penarth. There’s a balance to be had.”

A council report says there is demand in the St Augustine’s ward of Penarth, where the new development would be based, for an extra 171 affordable homes.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Thomas said: “If the developers can’t afford to make the full contributions to the community then don’t build the damn things.

“These are being built for profit, not for the benefit of the community.

“I’m looking to protect the community and part of that is social housing.”

Concerns were also raised by Penarth Town Council that the height and appearance of the building would be out of keeping with surrounding properties.

Cllr Nigel Humphrey, St Augustines Ward, said: “In the legislation the onus is on the developers to build viable projects - bearing in mind actual costs.

“If they have paid too much it should affect their profits, not taxpayer’s pockets.

“Is it not possible to find other uses for the land which might be more viable and does a lower profit margin really mean a site is unviable?

“We need a system that works. Either officers need more support to enforce policy, or we find some other way of fulfilling the housing need.”

A Vale of Glamorgan Council spokesman said: “The council has a proven track record of securing significant financial contributions and on-site infrastructure as part of new developments, including an average of 30 per cent affordable housing on new sites. We also currently have £21 million in section 106 contributions from new developments which will be spent on community infrastructure.

“However, Welsh Government policy means development viability must be taken into account when assessing applications and in some cases developments are not viable unless some relaxation of our policies is applied. In such cases the evidence is rigorously and independently assessed and the council has to consider whether the overall benefits of the development outweigh diminished contributions.

“This development will see an unsightly brownfield site in the heart of the town centre turned into new homes, with £54,000 being secured to deliver off-site affordable housing.”

Jon Hurley, from planning agent WYG, said: “The site occupies a prominent location in the approach to the town centre in Penarth. The site is not in a good state of repair.

“The proposed redevelopment will enhance the character of the area.

“In our view this represents a unique opportunity to redevelop this site.”