DC Casebook: Housing: New build - Gain demands refused after policy change

In granting planning permission for 18 flats in west London, an inspector has decided that the council showed inadequate justification for the inclusion of affordable housing or for a financial contribution towards community infrastructure.

Before buying the site last year, the appellants were advised by the council that no affordable housing would be necessary because the scheme fell below the 20-dwelling threshold set out in the unitary development plan. The price paid reflected this, they asserted. On submitting the proposal, they were informed that the council's policy had changed and any scheme involving more than 15 homes would be required to provide affordable housing. The council also sought £100,000 towards community and physical infrastructure.

The inspector agreed that the appellants had acted in good faith before the purchase. He remarked that applications should normally be decided in line with prevailing policies at the time of the decision. However, he concluded that a degree of pragmatism was required in this case because the council had originally indicated that no affordable housing provision would be necessary.

Given the price paid for the site, he accepted that affordable housing could only be provided as part of the development if the appellants accepted a substantially reduced profit. This might impinge on the overall viability of the project, he ruled. On that basis, he concluded that the provision of affordable housing was not justified in this case.

The inspector noted that the lack of an infrastructure payment had not been cited as a reason for refusal despite national advice requiring such reasons to be complete, precise and specific to the application. It was unclear how the development gave rise to a specific need in terms of improving health, education, open space and transport infrastructure, he held. The council had failed to provide reasoned justification for the amount sought, he concluded, noting that its demands would place the viability of the scheme in doubt.

DCS Number 100-058-387

Inspector Martin Andrews; Hearing.

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