Planning, property and profit: the use of financial viability modelling in urban property development
By drawing upon McAuslan’s analysis of the ideologies underpinning land use planning law, this paper examines financial viability modelling and legal processes in the context of local authority decision-making related to property development on large urban sites. A local authority can make a site ready for development by using ‘compulsory purchase’ powers to acquire land, by transferring that land to a property developer and by granting that developer planning permission to commence construction. Analysis of case law, academic criticism of viability modelling practices and a recent property development project highlight issues arising when local authority planning departments use viability appraisals to legitimise decisions purportedly taken in the public interest. An in-depth examination of viability modelling within local authority estates departments then opens a new site for critical inquiry of local authority land acquisition practices. The paper’s conclusions reflect upon how financial viability modelling shapes decision-making, despite questions surrounding both modelling techniques and the outputs that viability appraisals produce.