Incomplete planning obligation scuppers otherwise acceptable apartment block

A scheme for an 18-storey apartment block including 151 units, community use area, café, gym, residents' lounge and outdoor amenity area has been refused on allocated land on the edge of a city centre in West Yorkshire solely for the lack of a complete, dated and signed unilateral undertaking on the provision of affordable housing.

The council had refused the scheme for a number of reasons including concerns about its scale and height, loss of green infrastructure and trees, effect on air quality, detrimental effect on the surrounding microclimate through the lack of a wind assessment and lack of an affordable housing model to provide 20 per cent affordable housing. The inspector discounted the majority of these concerns, concluding that the proposal would respond appropriately to the character of the local urban fabric, which was characterised by tall buildings, the proposed planting and increased biological diversity would compensate for the loss of the existing grassy mound and vegetation, there would be a net gain in carbon sequestration over the life of the development and the wind velocity concerns could be resolved with conditions.

The decision to refuse the scheme was purely based on the last issue regarding affordable housing provision. Although the appellants had offered  a minimum of 20 per cent of units to be affordable, they had not provided a signed, dated and completed unilateral undertaking so the inspector held it did not constitute an Agreement. The percentages of affordable dwellings were missing and no plans defining the site were included. The inspector therefore afforded the undertaking very little weight as he had no confidence that the proposed affordable housing would be provided to meet policy requirements. 

Inspector: Paul Jackson; Written representations

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