The pressing need for more social housing was underlined by a High Court case in which planning permission for the construction of 110 new affordable homes in a sensitive urban location survived a sustained challenge by local objectors.
The development site forms part of a 1950s- and 1970s-built estate considered an important example of period suburban development, part of which is Grade II listed. The proposal was to demolish a redundant sheltered housing block and replace it with a new four-, six- and seven-storey affordable apartment building. A row of 11 affordable four-bedroom homes would also be built nearby.
The local authority granted planning permission for the development on the strength of a planning officers’ report, which stated that the significant public benefits of the project outweighed the less than substantial harm that would be caused to heritage assets. The proposal, which was said to be wholly sustainable, would make an important contribution to meeting the area’s social housing needs.
In mounting a judicial review challenge to the permission, a local campaign group was not opposed in principle to the redevelopment of the site in order to upgrade existing social housing and increase the number of residential units. It objected, however, to the height and scale of the proposed building which, it said, would dominate neighbouring Grade II-listed structures and have a harmful impact on a conservation area.
Ruling on the matter, the Court found that, despite the use of one regrettable phrase in the officers’ report, councillors had not been misled into the assumption that no less heritage-harmful scheme would have been economically viable. Other grounds of challenge, in which the group contended that the council failed to engage appropriately with objectors and that the decision-making process was infected by procedural unfairness, also fell on fallow ground.