New rules will boost Plymouth city centre homes
DEVELOPERS are to be encouraged to build homes and student flats in the city centre and parts of the Waterfront.
A new levy on developments is to be used to shift the balance away from shopping towards residential use, Plymouth City Council's cabinet has agreed.
Cabinet members agreed to plans for a new community infrastructure levy, which replaces the old system by which developers pay for the impact of their developments on the surrounding community.
The levy sets out a scale of charges for every type and scale of development.
But residential and purpose-built student accommodation will be zero-rated in an area stretching from Millbay through the city centre to North Cross and down to the east side of Sutton Harbour.
Cllr Mark Lowry, the cabinet member for finance, said: "This sends out a clear message to developers that Plymouth is open for homes, jobs and development in those areas."
The council will have the power to review the levy if it needs to.
Cllr Lowry said: "Perhaps if you are looking to develop the Pavilions or the Civic Centre, now might be a good time before we put the rates up."
Council leader Tudor Evans said the council could only spend levy money that had already been received and so would be fairly limited in the first few years.
The levy proposals will be debated by the full city council.
If adopted, the cash paid by developers will be earmarked for projects including improvements to the city centre public realm, mitigating impacts of increased recreational use of Plymouth Sound and the surrounding European Marine Site, Central Library improvements and the North Prospect development.
Cllr Lowry added later: "The city centre is a lot bigger than we need for a city of our size, particularly with the move of shopping from 'bricks to clicks'."
Paul Barnard, the city's chief planner, said that Sir Patrick Abercrombie, who redesigned the flattened post-war city, had "zoned out" residential use in the city centre.
"We have rated residential and student accommodation zero because a viability analysis showed that it would be quite challenging to build it in the city centre."
He said Plymouth's community infrastructure levy charges were among the lowest so far agreed by any local authority. The council will have to rescind its 2008 market recovery action plan before the new levy comes into force. That scheme was designed to encourage development during the downturn.
The Cabinet also approved a review of Plymouth's 2010 development guidelines.
New rules in the guidelines govern how houses can be converted into multiple use – houses in multiple occupation, or HMOs.
Cllr Chris Penberthy, the Cabinet member for communities, said: "Because of changes in the Government's rules we know more people will have to live in HMOs, and the quality of them is very important."
Mr Barnard said: "We get around 1,000 small applications every year and the planning department will use this document to make sure they are acceptable."