An appeal asking for a change to affordable housing requirements has finally been refused. Until now applications have been approved at local level and all appeals have been allowed. A sense of balance needed to be restored, if only to re-emphasise that there remains a strong policy justification for affordable housing, and for mixed and balanced communities.
The scheme was an outline proposal in Cornwall for 14 houses, 4 of which were affordable. The appeal was initially supported by a viability appraisal in which there were acknowledged errors. A new appraisal was produced at the hearing. The appraisal was based on an illustrative scheme and there was no evidence about the costs of alternative designs that might deliver 10 market homes and 4 affordable homes. There was also an issue about the land price that should be taken into account, mainly about whether the appellants’ expectation of a notional 2011 value should be used or whether the County’s evidence of present day market values should be preferred. The Inspector did not address the land value issue but concluded that it was impossible to conclude in the absence of a detailed scheme that a proposal with affordable housing would not be viable.
The decision is a useful reminder that the provisions in the G&IA are not just an open door. On an outline scheme there is clearly an ability to redesign and refine the proposals to make it more viable. However, this does rather beg a question. If it is sensible to consider other options on a site where there is an outline consent, then surely it is sensible that there should also be some consideration of whether a different and viable scheme could be brought forward on all appeals?