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Viability Assessment Checker

Tower Hamlets Viability (THV) have recently partnered with Southwark Council, Greater London Authority and Connected Places Catapult to deliver the second phase of an innovative digital solution for the purposes of maximising affordable housing.

What is the concept?

Viability Assessment Checker (VAC): this is an online gateway to transparently standardise and systemise the process of assessing the financial viability of planning applications. This innovative tool is intended to act as an internal database, assisting viability officers discover comparable evidence to help scrutinise inputs within appraisals.

THV (and partners) have just completed the ALPHA stage in creating this platform with the ambition to continue on to a BETA phase. This is currently under review and further development will be made available to view here.  The ALPHA stage of the process involved:

  1. Building prototypes of the tool to improve the viability process
  2. Testing these prototypes on THV officers
  3. Understanding how we can use the tool to the best of our ability
  4. Providing officers the platform to best explain the data so they can use it during viability negotiations
  5. Understanding how much the tool will cost to develop and maintain for THV
  6. Moving onto the BETA stage and understanding the risks associated


What are the benefits?

THV review financial viability appraisals, with the primary focus to achieve maximum levels of affordable housing. When providing financial viability advice to planning officers, THV need to be able to justify all of their cost inputs. One of the most important inputs when assessing viability is Gross Development Value (GDV). When calculating the GDV, it is important to consider the comparables for the subject scheme. This is where the Viability Assessment Checker can be helpful, as it allows THV officers to see comparable inputs from many different sites. Along with this, there are many other benefits of the tool, such as:

  • Reducing the workload of the officers – with the tool, a lot less time is being spent on discovering comparables for the subject scheme
  • Balance of information between developers and viability officers - developers appoint specialists that have access to data systems and are experts in their field, compared to local authorities who have limited information and no access to external data systems. With the use of VAC, officers will be more informed as the information on schemes will be easily accessible
  • The Council will be able to save costs in a number of ways; fewer appeals as officers will be able to justify their position using the tool, saving officer hours due to the mass amounts of data the tool has.

How will the VAC assist THV in preparing reviews?

When searching for comparables, the VAC has filters that can be used depending on the amount of information you have on the subject site. For example, if I have information on the affordable housing contribution, number of units and commercial space of a particular site, the VAC will be able to find comparables with those exact filters. These filters allow the officer to create a group of comparables which they can access at any point. 


For more information on the Viability Assessment Checker and how it works, click the links below or email us at viability@towerhamlets.gov.uk