Employment-led redevelopment wins over affordable housing-led

A high-rise mixed-use redevelopment scheme in an employment zone in west London has been approved on the grounds the economic and townscape benefits outweighed the less than substantial harm to a nearby listed cemetery. The proposal comprised two office buildings up to eight storeys in height incorporating over 5000 square metres of office floorspace and over 150 square metres of retail and restaurant uses. Two other appeals for alternative housing-led mixed-use schemes at the same site were refused at the same inquiry.

The main issue in all three proposals was the effect on heritage assets but for the housing-led schemes issues of affordable housing tenure and the effect on the designated employment zone also came into play. The inspector noted a fallback extant permission for high-rise employment and retail redevelopment at the site also existed. In assessing all three proposals on the setting of the heritage assets, a grade I registered cemetery and grade II* chapel, the inspector considered the employment-led proposal would have the least harmful effect because the proposed buildings were no taller than the extant scheme whereas in the housing-led schemes the proposals would be nearly five metres taller. In all cases, however, the inspector held the effect on the heritage assets would be less than substantial given the distances between the assets and the buildings proposed and the effects of intervening trees which meant minimal loss of sky view.

Appeals 2 and 3 comprised 100 per cent affordable housing with some flexible use additional floorspace but the appellant proposed a 35 per cent split in terms of tenure with fewer units of affordable housing for rent compared to intermediate housing. The council’s policy, which aimed to achieve the maximum amount of affordable housing on sites, required a 50:50 tenure split of all residential floorspace provided as affordable housing. The appellant argued this criterion was only meant to apply to the 35 per cent requirement, but the inspector disagreed and found conflict with the policy, particularly as their stance was not supported by a site-specific assessment. In relation to economic effects, the inspector held that appeals 2 and 3 conflicted with the objectives of the council’s employment policies taken as a whole and would result in harm to the function of the EZ by materially diluting its commercial bias as the housing-led emphasis would not enable a significant uplift in business floorspace.  

In the heritage balance, the inspector held the various benefits all three proposals would outweigh the harm to the cemetery and chapel, but in the overall planning balance, he concluded their conflict with the affordable housing tenure and employment policies rendered appeals 2 and 3 unacceptable.

Inspector: George Baird; Inquiry

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