At their meeting of 21st February 2017, Sunderland’s Development Control (Sunderland South) Sub-Committee voted by a significant majority in favour of our client’s development of a part brownfield site within the urban area for a residential development comprising affordable housing, low cost housing and supported housing for people with learning difficulties.
At face value, you may have thought the application would sail through: a development of social housing on a brownfield site within the urban area, a residential area at that, and the brownfield part of the site was Council owned and was to be sold to our clients subject to planning permission being granted. How wrong you would have been.
The application, was recommended for approval at the meeting of 3rd January. However, the application faced stiff opposition from local residents and a Ward Councillor who attended the meeting and spoke against the application. At this point it was looking likely that the application would be refused. Thankfully, our Director, Rod Hepplewhite, also attended the meeting to speak in support of the application and was able to address the issues raised by the objectors. The Committee then decided to defer a decision to allow for the issues raised to be fully explored before the application was reported back to them.
Revisions were subsequently made to the proposals and additional information was provided, which addressed all of the issues that had been raised. When the application was reported back to Committee, again with a recommendation for approval, the objectors spoke again as did our Director, Rod Hepplewhite. He was able to advise that all issues previously raised had now been addressed, as evidenced by the officer report and the recommendation that that the proposed development be approved. In this instance the Planning Committee accepted our argument and by a significant majority voted in favour of granting planning permission. Our clients and the architect for the scheme http://www.bsbaarchitects.com
who also attended the meeting were delighted with the outcome.
We have dealt with many applications for residential development of various forms. We have built up a good level of expertise on the subject and recognise that no two developments are the same and have learnt to be prepared for the unexpected. Notably, just because and application is recommended for approval doesn’t necessarily mean that the Planning Committee will grant planning permission. You should be represented at the Planning Committee meeting as we are aware of cases where only objectors speak and in the absence of the applicant being represented Planning Committee refuses planning permission. A subsequent planning appeal may succeed but that adds additional expense to the project as well as a significant time delay, both of which could have been avoided.
The latest standing on the matter of the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government wanting to reduce affordable housing contributions on small scale housing developments in the face of opposition from some Local Planning Authorities sees the Secretary of State one step ahead following the recent decision of the Court of Appeal.
Some may remember that following the publication of a written ministerial statement in November 2014, which set out revised policy on affordable housing provision, the Government’s online Planning Practice Guidance on the subject was amended.
The new policy proposed that:
(1) Developments of no more than 10 homes (with a gross floorspace not exceeding 1,000m²) would be exempted from levies for affordable housing and tariff-based contributions;
(2) In designated rural areas, National Parks and AONBs, however, the exemptions would apply only to developments not exceeding 5 new homes but developments of 6 – 10 homes could pay a commuted sum, either at or after completion of the development; and
(3) Redevelopment of a vacant building, or its demolition for redevelopment, would give rise to a credit (calculated in terms of floorspace) that could be off-set against any affordable housing contribution.
The Government’s hope was that this would improve the commercial viability of small housing schemes and assist in the aim of boosting the numbers of new houses being built.
However, two Local Planning Authorities (West Berkshire DC and Reading BC), were so concerned that this new policy would reduce the amount of new affordable housing being provided within their areas that they challenged it in the High Court. In July 2015 the High Court ruled in favour of the two Councils and quashed the new policy.
Subsequently, the Secretary of State sought to appeal through the Court of Appeal. The Court’s decision was issued on 11th May 2016. The Court allowed the Secretary of State’s appeal against the quashing order, the result of which is that the policy introduced in November 2014 is extant once again.
Whether the decision of the Court of Appeal is subject to further challenge is a moot point and we will have to wait and see. Until such a time however, many small scale housing developments will no longer be required to provide affordable housing.
If you are considering a small scale housing development talk to Prism planning, we just might be able to help.