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Islington backed in High Court over affordable housing

Words: Laura Edgar
The former Territorial Army building in Holloway / Google Maps

A High Court judge has ruled in favour of the London Borough of Islington in a ‘long-standing’ battle between the council and developer Parkhurst Road over the contribution of affordable housing.

Parkhurst Road wants to redevelop the 0.58 hectare site, home of the former Territorial Army building in Holloway, for which it paid the Ministry of Defence £13.25 million in 2013.

The application comprises 112 homes – 16 of them affordable. Islington refused permission in 2014, a decision that was upheld on appeal, partly for not providing enough affordable housing.

At public inquiry, the council said in a statement that the developer justified the low level of affordable housing by citing the land purchase price. The council argued the developer paid too much for the site.

The developer made a further application for planning permission in 2016 for 96 homes. Islington refused this application, because the developer “failed to demonstrate” that the development would provide “the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing” and inadequate section 106 obligations. A planning inspector supported the council’s decision.

Parkhurst Road brought a case to the High Court against the council and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

In the case – Parkhurst Road Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities And Local Government & Anor – Justice Holgate examined land and sales values in the area, stating that “it is clear that the appeal proposal would not provide the maximum reasonable level of affordable housing in accordance with policies”.

“I note the appellant's position that no affordable housing will come forward if the development is refused planning permission but this argument could be applied to any residential case and is not justification for allowing development that does not properly meet policy requirements and objectives,” he continued.

Despite improvements to the character and appearance of the area, as well as some financial benefits such as increased council tax receipts and the New Homes Bonus, Justice Holgate said those cumulatively “do not outweigh my conclusions with regards to the main issues in this case”.

The appeal proposal, said Justice Holgate, “would not provide the maximum reasonable level of affordable housing and the submitted planning obligation does not provide a suitable means for a viability review” and would conflict with a number of policies.

“Having had regard to the development plan as a whole, the appeal proposal is in clear conflict,” he concluded.

A spokesperson for Islington Council said: “This decision reinforces Islington Council’s long-standing position that developers should abide by the councils’ planning guidelines – rather than overpaying for land and then trying to bypass our affordable housing requirements.

“There is a shortage of good-quality, genuinely affordable housing in Islington and a significant unmet housing need. The council is doing everything it can to address this, because we believe that everyone should have somewhere to live that is affordable, decent and secure – and developers must respect these important priorities when they purchase sites in Islington.”

Parkhurst Road Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities And Local Government & Anor can be found here.

Image credit | Google Maps