A wide range of matters had been agreed between the parties, including the fact that the development had stalled since 2008. The appellants argued that to produce an acceptable rate of return, the apartments would have to be sold at prices significantly above the local rate.
Councillors overruled officers' advice that the obligation should be varied to delete the requirement for the affordable units or a lump sum payment in lieu. Instead, they relied on the growing strength of the economy and the likelihood that property prices would continue to rise. They were also concerned about setting an undesirable precedent.
The inspector considered that government guidance was clear in stating that stalled housing schemes rendered unviable by changing economic conditions should be unlocked by removing obstacles to implementation. Even if the four affordable housing units were removed from the development, he remarked, the developer's return would remain at a low level, but it would allow the appellant to recoup the written-down land value and site costs to date. On that basis, he decided that the development would probably go ahead.
On the costs issue, he found that members had relied on generalised claims about the state of the economy and the risk of setting a precedent. Only a short statement had been prepared in defence of their case and nothing more was added at the hearing, he remarked. The appeal had been unnecessary and a full award of costs to the appellants was justified, he ruled.
Inspector: Phillip Ware; Hearing