Council to pay full costs for overturning officers' approval recommendation

The redevelopment of a former school for 20 affordable dwellings on brownfield land in a residential area in a Ceredigion settlement was allowed, and costs awarded against the council, the inspector finding that members' reversal of their officers' recommendation, over concerns regarding the loss of the school as a heritage building, density, car parking and single tenure housing, was totally unsubstantiated.

The site formed part of a housing allocation in the adopted local plan and was in a defined service centre where housing was promoted. The allocation allowed for the retention of the old school building, but the appellant had argued this was not financially viable and would not meet social housing association standards, hence the proposal for its demolition and redevelopment. Officers had recommended approval of the scheme on this basis, but members had raised concern about the loss of the school building as wel as other issues.

The inspector noted that the building could be demolished under permitted development rights and on this basis held that no significant weight should be afforded to its loss. In considering the three-fold increase in density of the proposal above that of the allocated sites schedule, the inspector felt the proposed density would not give rise to any harmful effects. In addressing the issue of single tenure development, the inspector felt the proposal would meet an identified need for affordable housing and would still provide for mixed tenure communities in the area as per Planning Policy Wales, albeit it would be contrary to the specific site allocation requirement for "general housing with affordable".

The inspector upheld a full award of costs against the council for not providing evidence to substantiate its reasons for refusal, amounting to unreasonable behaviour and unnecessary costs for the appellant. 

Inspector: Janine Townsley; Written representations

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