Concern as Cardiff developers pay city £18m less than requested

Proposed development on the ITEC site in Butetown Image copyright CW Architects
Image caption Developers of a block on the ITEC site in Butetown will pay £35,000 towards affordable housing instead of the £1.9m requested by Cardiff Council

Wales' first minister has criticised developers for paying Cardiff Council £18m less cash for affordable housing and community facilities than it asked for over the last five years.

Some developers paid nothing, as requests for £21.7m across 25 schemes resulted in deals to pay £3.75m.

Mark Drakeford, Welsh Assembly member for Cardiff West, said firms should not "abdicate their responsibilities".

The council said it negotiated payments on the basis of their affordability.

The figures were released following a Freedom of Information request from the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Projects such as the city's new bus station and flats in former industrial areas of Butetown are among those where the agreed sum - known as a Section 106 payment - was a fraction of the initial request.

Funding for affordable housing was often the element cut or scrapped from the deal, according to the figures.

Image caption Mark Drakeford said local politicians wanted to see "proper investment" in their communities

Mr Drakeford expressed his concern that projects in his Cardiff West constituency would deliver community benefits of £115,000 instead of the £1.5m requested.

"Private developers should not be allowed to abdicate their responsibilities to our communities," he tweeted.

Projects had been green-lit despite objections from local representatives, he added, saying they "want to see proper investment in their wards and constituencies".

A Cardiff Council spokesman said the process was a "negotiation" with the developer, with the district valuer deciding how much should be paid.

"Many people will see a proposed multimillion development and assume there is excess profit to be made," the spokesman said.

"What isn't always known is how much it will cost the developer to buy the land, the cost of the building materials and the cost of labour to build the development, often many years after planning permission has been sought.

"These costs then need to be offset from the actual income they may receive when they sell the homes on the open market."

Image copyright Councillor Joel Williams
Image caption A new central bus station including flats and offices is under construction in Cardiff

Despite the reductions, in total developers have paid Cardiff Council £21m over the past five years, taking into account hundreds of schemes where funding requests were not challenged.

Local government expert Dr Marlene Davies, from the University of South Wales, said councils knew it was "a game that they're playing" and probably did not expect to get all the benefits they asked for.

"Developers are out to make money - end of story," she said.

"Local authorities have a duty of care to the public and they have to try and get as much as possible," she said.

"Quite often the people representing the developers are probably a bit more savvy."

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