Developers no longer have to pay affordable housing contributions if building homes in Aberdeen city centre, following a new policy move.
Aberdeen City Council will allow a two-year waiver of the fee for developers wishing to build residential developments of less than 50 homes within the city centre.
The move, which was approved by councillors yesterday, would allow an exemption on paying for affordable homes until December 31 2020.
Marie Boulton, convener of the planning committee, said the move could encourage more people into the city centre, claiming this could lead to the creation of “delis, artisan shops and breads”.
She added: “We’re looking to create a vibrant economy and that includes getting living spaces in some of our beautiful listed buildings.
“What we will be doing is seeing people living in the city which will help our cultural sector, with them visiting theatre, cinemas and all the restaurants.
“We will see perhaps the rise of delis, artisan shops and breads.”
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She added that the council could have been “far more extravagant” in terms of trying to “please developers” by removing obligations altogether but realised the importance of contributions on education and roads infrastructure.
She said: “There’s no magic answer or we would have come up with it by now.”
But SNP councillor John Cooke lodged an amendment to oppose the move, arguing all it would do was “put money in the hands of developers”.
He added: “The effect of this proposal would in my view do nothing at all to enhance affordable living in the city centre.
“It’s just giving an extra wad of cash to developers. This is a policy for the few not the many.”
Mr Cooke also said the boundary marking out the city centre area was “entirely arbitrary”.
He added: “We could see a developer looking at a building in Rosemount and saying why can we not have this?”
Following a debate, the administration’s motion was passed six votes to two.
SNP councillor Bill Cormie refused to vote on the policy change and asked for his dissent to be noted after it emerged councillors only received the report at around 5pm the night before the meeting.
He said the lateness of the paper was “totally unacceptable”.
But Gale Beattie, who heads up planning at the local authority, said she wanted the paper to come to committee as “quickly as possible” after councillors backed the move at a committee earlier this week.
The report told councillors that the application of developers’ obligations in the city centre for residential development is under “consistent challenge”.
A City Living Study showed there were areas in the city centre where additional costs have an effect on the viability of residential schemes, such as working with listed buildings or buildings in conservation areas.
The report said: “Residential projects in the city centre usually involve significant uncertainties, in particular regarding renovations and site preparation due to the nature of city centre sites and existing developments.
“This increases risk for developers (particularly when compared against greenfield development) that can make investment unattractive.”
However, officers advised against a waiver on all obligations as they argued this would result in under provision in health, education and infrastructure projects.