Islington sets out more stringent viability rules in draft local plan

A London borough's new draft local plan proposes that site-specific viability information from developers "will only be accepted in exceptional cases", while schemes that fail to provide 50 per cent affordable housing on-site will be subject to "detailed" viability reviews up until their completion.

Islington town hall: council publishes draft local plan
Islington town hall: council publishes draft local plan

Islington has this week published its draft local plan strategic and development management policies for consultation.

The draft document includes new viability policies, including that "housing policies, particularly affordable housing requirements, must have regard to development viability".

It sets an affordable housing target of 50 per cent, with a tenure split of 70 per cent social rented and 30 pe cent intermediate housing, which is the same as the current core strategy.

However, it says that any schemes of more than 10 units that fail to deliver this level on-site "will be subject to detailed review mechanisms throughout the period up to full completion of the development, including an advanced stage review mechanism".

The draft plan stresses that "site-specific viability information will only be accepted in exceptional cases, determined by the council".

A statement from the council said the draft plan "builds on the council’s current strong approach to viability".

"Islington Council has been very successful in ensuring that viability information is properly and fairly scrutinised, evidenced by the [High Court case]," it added.

The council said the draft local plan "builds on this approach by utilising viability tools to secure greater levels of affordable housing, including review mechanisms where developers have make more contributions toward affordable housing in future if the original viability calculations at planning stage are found to be incorrect".

The council said that other "main priorities" in the new local plan include policies to ensure that all new office developments would need to provide at least 10 per cent of floorspace as affordable workspace, which is let by local businesses at low rents.

The plan also restricts betting shops and hot food takeaways and restricts the location and height of tall buildings.

In April, a High Court judge backed the London Borough of Islington over its refusal of permission for a 96-home scheme because of a lack of affordable housing. The case centred on viability issues, with the developer arguing that anything above its proposed ten per cent affordable housing rate would make the scheme commercially unviable.

In October, the council and and the capital's deputy mayor for housing wrote an open letter to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) urging it to rewrite a key guidance document on viability in the wake of the High Court ruling.

Councillor Diarmaid Ward, the council’s executive member for housing and development, said: "The council has been very successful in the past using tough planning policy to ensure that developers deliver the homes and workplaces local people need, and the new local plan builds on that approach.

"We have very little usable space for development left in Islington so each and every development in the borough must make the best possible use of space, as well as providing tangible benefits that help ensure that everyone, whatever their background, has the same opportunity to reach their potential and enjoy a good quality of life."

The plan would steer development in the borough over the next 15 years, covering the period 2020 to 2035.

The council is also consulting on its draft site allocations document, and an area action plan for the Bunhill and Clerkenwell.

The consultations run until 14 January 2019 and can be found here.

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