Developer forces Bromley planning policy rethink

A developer has succeeded in a High Court challenge to quash parts of a London borough’s key planning policy to allow it to build more homes on a development site.

Judge Bidder QC allowed a challenge by a developer that claimed its land near Bromley North Station hadn’t been earmarked for enough new homes.

The judge quashed parts of the London Borough of Bromley’s Town Centre Area Action Plan (AAP) that maps out development in Bromley for the next 15 years, and sent the matter back to the Council for reconsideration in light of his ruling.

The AAP envisaged the Bromley North Station site as providing a "Northern Gateway" into the revitalised town centre, and allocated it for around 250 residential units, 2,000 square metres of business development, additional food and drink establishments and 1,000 square metres of community use, on top of improvements to the existing listed station building.

However, Linden Homes Ltd, which owns some of the land and has entered into a collaboration agreement with Network Rail for the redevelopment of the site, argued that 250 homes was not enough to make the project economically viable.

It claimed that even if property values were to return to the highs of late 2007 and early 2008 a development with only 250 homes would not turn a profit.

It argued that the AAP would achieve a density of only 110 residential units per hectare, but the wider London Plan  proposes a density of between 215 to 405 units per hectare on such a central site.

Now the judge has ruled that conclusions reached by a Government planning inspector, who advised the Council on the AAP, that the housing figures in the London Plan were not critical and that less comprehensive schemes would be possible were "inexplicable".

He said: "The reasons given by the Inspector in relation to these important issues did not enable the claimant to understand why the inspector reached the conclusions that he did. 

"Although reasons may be brief, there must be comprehensible reasons and, in particular, his conclusion that there were alternatives to the claimant’s scheme which would make up a shortfall while still achieving the other aims of the plans is, in my judgment, inexplicable as it stands."

He added that the inspector’s conclusions on the viability of the AAP in this respect were "purely speculative".

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