Development Control Casebook: Housing New Build - Viability plea rejected on flats plans

An apartment development in Reading has been refused permission after an inspector found no exceptional circumstances to justify a relaxation of affordable home requirements.

Permission was granted last year for 24 two-bedroom flats and four one-bedroom flats subject to a legal agreement securing half the dwellings as affordable housing. The developer now proposed 14 studio flats, seven two-bedroom flats and 14 one-bedroom flats, with provision of three affordable units. The inspector did not consider that such a high proportion of one-bedroom flats would provide the mix of sizes sought by an area action plan or the national requirement for a good mix.

The council's core strategy required all developments of 15 dwellings and above to provide 50 per cent affordable housing. At nine per cent, the provision was well below that sought. The appellant argued that the previously approved scheme was no longer viable in a falling market. A viability study showed a margin of 2.69 per cent with three affordable flats and 6.14 per cent with none.

The appellant argued that the market downturn made this development unviable. The council countered that the land was purchased without planning permission and in excess of the existing use value, thus incurring a risk. The inspector judged that the situation facing the appellant was not wholly due to the downturn. He did not consider that there were exceptional circumstances for relaxing the affordable housing requirement.

DCS Number 100-069-481

Inspector Gwynedd Thomas; Hearing

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