Inspector Rules that the Need for Affordable Housing Outweighed Lack of Viability

By Akeem Iginla. The proposed development for 21 dwellings in West Sussex has been refused due to its lack of affordable housing provision despite the Inspector acknowledging that, including such provision would make the scale of the proposed development unviable.

The proposed redevelopment provided no affordable housing element on-site or off-site and no financial contribution in lieu of affordable housing was proposed based on lack of viability. This is despite the Council’s adopted local plan requiring 40% provision from all residential developments, unless evidence was provided to demonstrate that the development site could not support such a provision from a viability stance. Importantly in this case,  the development clearly met a demonstrable need. The Inspector was concerned with this latter factor, and noted at the outset that the developer had made no case that their development which consisted of I and 2 bed flats, would meet an identified need in the borough.

The fact that the Council could demonstrate adequate supply of housing land and suitable delivery against targets, remained uncontested by the developer.

Whilst the Inspector accepted that the Council’s adopted policy on affordable housing had diverged slightly from the wordings of the relevant paragraphs of the NPPF, which it pre-dated, he held that this difference was modest and afforded the policy substantial weight in his deliberations.

The Inspector concluded that the development proposal would not accord with either paragraphs 62 or 64 of the NPPF, and that the harm arising from the conflict with both the local and NPPF weighed notably against the development proposal.

The Inspector addressed the developer’s submitted viability assessment of the proposed housing scheme in support of the lack of affordable housing provision, by stating that the Council had accepted that the development would be unviable if affordable housing was included.

However, the Inspector considered that as the assessment did not refer back to the viability assessments of the local plan, or demonstrated that there had been a change in circumstances since it was adopted, and because the proposal did not demonstrate that it met a particular need for a particular type of housing in the Borough, the lack of viability itself did not outweigh the importance of providing affordable housing to meet an established identified need, as required by the local and national policies.

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