Prolonged Void Saga Resolved in South Gloucestershire

May 14, 2013 10:21 pm Published by

Tetlow King Planning (TKP) has helped to resolve a long-running planning dispute in gaining planning permission for the change of use of four affordable flats to open market in Kingswood, South Gloucestershire.

The site had a long planning history, spanning national and local policy changes to the site size threshold for the negotiation of affordable housing provision and including 6 planning applications and two appeals dating back to 2002; with the original 15 flats being constructed in 2005.

Permission for the conversion of void space in the lower ground floor to four affordable housing units was originally sought by an affordable housing provider, and granted at appeal in 2008; car parking and amenity having been amongst the issues in dispute. Grant funding necessary to enable the viability of the conversion was subsequently secured from the HCA to deliver those four units but the housing provider later withdrew its interest.

At this stage TKP were instructed to enter into discussions with the Council’s housing enabling and planning officers who sought a substantial lump-sum financial contribution towards off-site provision. As alternative affordable housing providers could not be found to deliver the units and finance for the scheme could not be secured, with the existing permission requiring the units to be delivered as affordable housing, a further planning application was submitted for market housing. An appeal against non-determination of that application was unsuccessful; the Inspector concluding that the absence of any financial contribution would cause harm to affordable housing delivery in the area.  This was notwithstanding TKP’s exposition of the complex planning history by which the site had been below the Council’s earlier threshold of 25 dwellings for the negotiation of affordable housing.

The four additional units were first constructed and then occupied as unrestricted housing in 2011.

Consequently the Council threatened enforcement action against the landowner. TKP were then instructed to engage once more in detailed negotiations with Council officers, highlighting the practical difficulties in securing funding for the scheme either as affordable units or for payments to be made in lieu of on-site affordable provision.

The Council’s housing enabling officers and legal team were persuaded to support a further application seeking a change of use of the now converted units to open market tenure. This application was accompanied by a draft Section 106 Agreement drawn up by Merrett & Co., Solicitors, securing an affordable housing contribution through a phased scheme allowing payments to remain in step with the landowner securing the sale of each individual unit.

Despite raising just a single objection from neighbours, this final application nearly became an appeal when the planning officer initially sought to invalid it; based on a misinterpretation of its legal status and parameters.  Later, after the expiry of the eight week determination period, the same officer appeared ready to reject the financial contribution that had been agreed with the housing enabling and legal officers.  However, within a week of the threat of a further appeal being made, the planning officer responded positively and all outstanding concerns were negotiated away, leading to a delegated approval.

The full decision notice and engrossed Section 106 Agreement were then issued within just a month. TKP understands that its client is now progressing well towards disposing of the four units, thus triggering the phased release of the agreed financial contribution.

TKP Principal Planner, Meghan Rossiter, handled the negotiations in the latter stages on behalf of the client landowner.