Housing developers in Winnersh will only have to contribute £2,500 towards building affordable houses in the borough despite standing to make more than £560,000 profit.

This comes after councillors gave applicants the green light to build a dozen apartments on King Street Lane - none of which will be made ‘affordable’.

Instead, developers will pay into a pot which helps to finance the building of cheaper homes elsewhere in Wokingham borough, but the sum will amount to 98 per cent less than was originally anticipated.

Under council rules, it was first determined 20 per cent of the 12 homes planned (equalling 2.4 homes) should be made affordable, but because it was not practical to provide these cheaper houses on-site, applicants had agreed to pay a ‘commuted sum’ of £140,393.50 instead to fund affordable housing off-site.

However, the applicant submitted an assessment in February 2019 arguing the housing scheme did not meet council requirements and therefore developers would not have to pay the bill.

A review was undertaken by an independent consultant, who found inconsistencies in the valuation of building costs, land value and other fees and consequently determined developers should only pay £2,504.

This is because the consultant determined the development would only be ‘financially viable’ if it made 17.5 per cent profit.

Applicants are set to make 17.58 per cent profit - meaning the remaining 0.08 per cent (£2,504), goes towards affordable housing contribution while developers stand to make £563,640 profit.

Despite paying just £2,504 towards affordable housing, developers will be forced to pay £111,000 towards enhancing the borough’s infrastructure through the ‘community infrastructure levy’.

Councillors Carl Doran and Wayne Smith questioned why council policy had allowed developers to pay such a small amount at a meeting on Wednesday, May 8, with the latter commenting: “We need to be more robust and do more about social housing.

“But these are all things for the future - there is nothing we can do tonight."

The site currently holds an existing two-storey office building which will be converted into twelve flats after builder raise the roof of the property.

Applicants had previously applied to build 18 flats in 2017 and this application is a resubmission of these previous plans, which was refused due to overdevelopment, impacts on neighbour amenities and lack of affordable housing.

But planning officers deemed the new scheme to be fit for approval, claiming the proposal “represents an appropriate reuse of an existing brownfield office building in a highly sustainable location with ready access to public transport and facilities”.

The flats would comprise of nine one-bedroom homes and three two-bedroom homes with twelve car parking spaces accompanying them.

Councillors voted through the proposal, despite raising concerns over affordable housing and limited parking at the site, at the planning committee meeting last week.

In a statement, a council spokesperson said: “Wokingham Borough Council’s policy is that between 20% and 40% of homes on developments comprising five or more dwellings should be affordable housing and in most cases we achieve that.

“Nationally, we are one of the highest deliverers in terms of affordable housing – 482 affordable completions in 2017/18 and 365 in 2018/19. In terms of offsite commuted sums for affordable housing, more than £19m was received in 2018/19.

“It should also be pointed out that the developer in this case is set to pay about £111,000 towards new and improved facilities and infrastructure within the borough (through the Community Infrastructure Levy).

“Developers are legally allowed to submit what are known as viability cases if they believe the development is going to be too costly for them to make a reasonable or viable profit. When viability cases are submitted, they are assessed by an independent consultant who will look at such things as land values, building costs and development sales etc. In this case, a profit of 17.5% was considered appropriate to make the development financially viable. Generally, anything above 15%-20% is viewed as surplus and available for developer contributions for affordable housing.”