Mount St Mary’s Richmond Hill: Plans to convert abandoned Leeds church into flats go back before councillors

Plans to convert an historic church at the east end of Leeds are set to go back before planning chiefs, as a council report claims developers need “flexibility” to help to attract investors for the scheme.

Saturday, 4th December 2021, 11:45 am
An artist's impression of a post-renovation Mount St Mary's church.

The plans to convert the 19th century Mount St Mary’s church in Richmond Hill into 175 flats were originally approved by Leeds City Council’s City Plans Panel back in February 2021.

While the physical plans for the flats have not changed, developers wish to have the option to alter the scheme to a mix of build to sell and build to rent, having previously been approved for 100 per cent rentals.

A report by Leeds City Council officers into the changes claims the proposals have “implications for the scheme’s overall viability”.

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The paper added: “No changes to the above position are proposed but to give the developer more options in terms of attracting investment to help deliver the scheme, a request to also include the more traditional Build to Sell option… is advanced.”

As build-to-rent schemes are considered less risky investments for developers, district valuer regulations allow for an eight per cent profit on those schemes. Planners allow for a higher 15 per cent profit margin for build-to-sell to make it more attractive to investors.

The report added: “In reflecting on the above, the proposed introduction of the build to sell option is largely academic on the basis the scheme is still not viable under either option.

“Furthermore, the inclusion of viability review clauses within the S106 still provides the Council with the opportunity to revisit the viability position in the event the scheme is not implemented in the short term and/or profit margins alter over time.

“Officers are therefore supportive of allowing the Build to Sell option to feature within the S106 obligations in addition to Build to Rent clauses – which Members have already accepted. A profit level of 15 per cent would however need to be applied and feed into any viability appraisal review.”

It concludes: “As originally considered, the viability appraisal only presented a single delivery method via Build to Rent and where a developer profit level of 8 per cent was accepted.

“The applicant, whilst content with the original proposal would nonetheless like the ability to also deliver the scheme via the more traditional build to sell route with a developer profit of 15 per cent.

“Although it is clear from the District Valuer’s appraisal the build to sell option is the less viable of the two options, this could obviously alter and its inclusion would at least provide the applicant with greater flexibility to bring forward the scheme.

“Panel members are therefore recommended to reaffirm the original officer recommendation to defer and delegate approval of the applications subject to completion conditions but to include a second delivery method via build to sell.”

The plans will be discussed by Leeds City Council’s North and East Plans Panel on Thursday, December 9.

Richard Beecham, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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