Lack of affordable housing unjustifed by dementia care viability claim

A scheme to extend and convert an historic lodge in the countryside outside an Essex town into a twenty-five bed dementia unit cross-funded by thirty open market retirement bungalows for the over-55s failed, an inspector finding a lack of affordable housing had not been justified among other issues.

The appellant contended that the renovation and extension of the lodge as a dementia care unit would not be financially viable unless enabled by open market housing and without provision of affordable housing. The council accepted that some open market dwellings would be needed to bring forward the dementia care unit proposal but calculated that only five would be necessary. The inspector set aside the differences in viability assessment after finding that the supplied unilateral undertaking did not secure any more than half of the costs of the works involved in creating the dementia unit. In the absence of any mechanism to secure the use of the dementia care unit there was no need for her to consider whether the provision of a specialist care facility justified the development without affordable housing.

The council challenged the need for specialist dementia care accommodation in the district but the inspector noted the decision of a colleague inspector that demand alone for such provision was a significant material consideration and comments from Care England concerning the needs of an ageing population, to decide the specialist dementia care unit weighed significantly in favour of the proposal. However, the inspector concluded that an out-of-keeping layout and design harmed area character, some bungalows would be overshadowed by trees, bats would not be protected and adequate provision for affordable housing had not been made. In an overall tilted balance, the benefits of the scheme, including housing in the context of a five-year supply shortfall, did not outweigh these harms and she held the scheme was not a sustainable development in the terms of the Framework and dismissed the appeal.  

Inspector: Emma Brownless; Hearing

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