Flawed agreement leads to homes refusal

A flawed unilateral undertaking has persuaded the secretary of state to turn down an otherwise acceptable proposal for 75 homes in a Warwickshire town.

The appeal site was allocated for development in a recently adopted local plan. The secretary of state agreed with his inspector that the location and scale of homes proposed met development plan policies in that regard. The fact that the council could show a five-year housing land supply did not influence this view, since he agreed with the inspector that its housing requirement was not a maximum figure. 

However, the appeal was dismissed following findings that a unilateral undertaking that was acceptable to the council was inherently flawed and unreliable. The secretary of state found a lack of supporting evidence to justify contributions towards a cycleway, library services and sports, recreation and community provision. He also found insufficient evidence to show how figures for open space contributions had been calculated, whether there was a local deficiency and whether the sums involved were on a scale appropriate to the development.

Without this information, he agreed with his inspector that the undertaking would not meet the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations and could not be taken into account. This rendered other aspects of the package providing for biodiversity offsetting, surface water drainage, affordable housing and education provision non -compliant with policy as well, he held. In his view, the further evidence required would be too complicated to issue a "minded to allow" decision.

The appellants’ claim for a full award of costs against a rule 6 party and partial costs against the council was refused on the grounds that no unreasonable behaviour by any of the parties had taken place. The secretary of state was satisfied that the council’s refusal was based on timing issues with local plan adoption and that the rule 6 party had relevant open space concerns and had made a positive contribution to the proceedings. 

Inspector: Julia Gregory; Inquiry

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