Extra-care scheme approved despite affordable homes shortfall

Despite a lack of policy-compliant affordable housing, plans have been approved for an extra-care facility at a listed former college in west London.

The appeal proposal incorporated refurbishment and partial demolition of the former college complex, five new buildings up to eight storeys high, reinstatement of three former townhouses, a deck over a section of underground railway, parking spaces and five affordable housing units. The Greater London Authority (GLA) had directed refusal of the application on the grounds that the applicants had not shown that the scheme provided the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing on the site.

While recognising variations in the values used in the parties’ viability assessments, the inspector found that, taking development costs alone, the GLA’s suggested “headroom” of two per cent of gross development cost and six per cent of total costs was excessive, so there was no capacity for more affordable housing. In reaching this conclusion, he accepted that the cost of the proposed railway deck significantly exceeded the threshold in the GLA’s calculations and took into account other possible variations in cost and viability calculations.

However, he accepted the GLA’s position with regard to the section 106 review mechanism required for the proposal. He agreed that the early and late stage review mechanism set out by the appellants was reasonable and necessary and stipulated that 60 per cent of any surplus shown by the late stage review should be allocated to affordable housing.

Weighing the planning balance, the inspector found that the loss of a hall and cottage listed by virtue of falling within the curtilage of the retained buildings would cause less than substantial harm. He also found that no justification had been provided for the loss of an education facility and multi-use games area at the site.

In the scheme’s favour, he listed a raft of public benefits including enhancements to listed buildings, their setting and the conservation area as a whole, townscape benefits, improvements to public access and connectivity, an improved noise environment for local residents from decking over the railway and provision of older people’s accommodation, for which there was an acknowledged need. He concluded that the proposal accorded with the development plan as a whole.

Inspector: David Morgan; Inquiry

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